As the 2018-2019 school year approaches, backpacks fill with new school supplies, desks receive new nametags, and excitement fills the air. Although starting a new school year is nerve-racking for most children, beginning elementary school for the first time brings on a new level of excitement...and fear. Starting kindergarten is an adjustment for both parents and kids, so we want to help you begin the school year with ease by learning about prerequisite skills for kindergarten and how to prepare for the first day of school!
Skills Needed For Kindergarten
Kindergarten is an opportunity for your child to develop social skills, self-care, and academic skills independently. Kindergarten allows children to explore new opportunities without relying on the constant assistance from caregivers. With that being said, the independence that kindergarten permits may be initially challenging for children. The following is a suggested guideline of prerequisite skills and activities to prepare your child for success before entering kindergarten. This list is only a guideline as kindergarten curriculums and expectations vary.
1. Identify some letters of the alphabet.
Start with the letters in your child’s name for motivation. For instance, if your daughter’s name is Kelly, you can point out the letter “K” in books, magazines, and advertisements.
Refrigerator letters are versatile toys that can be used in a variety of ways for letter recognition. Play I-spy while cooking and eating, such as ‘I spy the letter “A”’ and have your child point out the letter. Play hide-and-seek by hiding a letter and asking your child to find the letter “B” in the kitchen. Point to the letters as a point of reference while getting food out of the fridge. For instance, “I am getting broccoli; broccoli starts with the letter B”.
2. Grip a pencil, crayon, or marker with the thumb and forefinger, supporting the tip.
Improve hand muscles by rolling and forming shapes with Play-Doh.
3. Use art materials (scissors, glue, paint) with relative ease.
- Enjoy the last few weeks of summer with a fun summer cut-and-paste activity: click here.
4. Write first name.
After learning the first two prerequisites, the next skill to practice is writing one’s name. Make it fun by writing in shaving cream or using bath crayons during bath time!
5. Count to 10.
The best way to practice counting is by counting everything and anything! Count blocks, cookies, stairs, stuffed animals, trees and so on!
6. Able to self-dress.
- Although dressing your children in the morning saves time and energy, it restricts them from learning opportunities to self-dress. Aim to leave a few extra minutes each morning to let your children practice getting dressed for the day.
7. Clean up toys or activities independently.
In kindergarten, children are expected to clean up toys, art supplies, school materials, and other activities independently. Give the expectation to clean up toys once finished playing at home to encourage this skill. Once your child loses interest in a toy, sing the clean up song together while putting each item in its respected place.
8. Listen to a story without interrupting.
Sustaining adequate attention during stories is challenging for children. When reading a book, set a certain number of book pages or set a timer as a visual reminder for the amount of listening time. Continue to increase listening time until your child is able to listen to a full story or children’s book.
9. Follow 1-2 step directions.
Following 1-2 step directions is required for most activities during the school day. Make following directions fun by playing Simon says with the whole family!
Independently use bathroom.
- For most kindergarten programs, potty training is required. Read our previous posts on potty training tips and potty training with speech problems.
If your child has not mastered the following skills, do not fret. The skills will continue to develop and form throughout kindergarten. Allow opportunities for your child to become more self-efficient and demonstrate their independence.
The First Day of Kindergarten
Being prepared for the first day of school can help smooth the new transition. Most kindergarten programs provide an open house night leading up to the school year, allowing students to meet the teacher, explore the classroom, and greet fellow classmates. Attending the open house is highly encouraged for families, so your child can become more familiar with their new environment prior to the first day.
Establishing a structured sleep and meal schedule prior to the first day will help your child adjust accordingly. Set a strict bedtime and morning routine so your child is well rested the first week. Regulate mealtimes at home so that lunch is scheduled at the same time every day.
Plan a “kindergarten practice day” at home. Take an hour out of the day to walk through possible activities your child may experience. Some examples include wearing a backpack, standing in line, listening to stories, participating in a craft, and singing a song. Your child would probably love to role-play a typical day of school, and feel more comfortable knowing expected activities.
Finally, build excitement for the first day of school. Starting kindergarten should be exhilarating for children. Involve your child in the purchasing of school supplies, packing lunch, and picking out their first day outfit. On the day of, allow extra time to spend the morning together by eating breakfast and taking some first day photographs.
Expectations of the First Day
It is easy to imagine the first day of school to be picture perfect as a parent or caregiver. Although kindergarten is a big milestone in your child’s life, avoid setting high expectations for the first day. Children may also experience negative feelings after the first few days.
1. They may cry. It is not because your child doesn’t want to go to school or is not ready; it just means they are scared of the unknown. With peer models and the support of the teacher, your child will adjust and learn how fun school can be!
2. They will be tired. Adjusting to a full school schedule is hard for children. The first few weeks will be a transition. Expect your child to be tired and sometimes cranky, at home.
3. They may not want to go back. Kindergarten places responsibilities and expectations on children. Following classroom rules and listening to the teacher can seem intimidating to them. As they become more comfortable with the routine of the classroom, they will begin to enjoy attending school on a daily basis.
Happy first day of school!📚😄
LUMIERE THERAPY TEAM🖐️
Herzog, Danielle. “What to Expect When Your Child Goes to Kindergarten.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 7 Aug. 2015, www.washingtonpost.com/news/parenting/wp/2015/08/07/what-to-expect-when-your-child-goes-to-kindergarten/?noredirect=on.
“Kindergarten Readiness: What Skills Your Child Should Have.” Scholastic Publishes Literacy Resources and Children's Books for Kids of All Ages, www.scholastic.com/parents/school-success/school-life/grade-by-grade/preparing-kindergarten.html.