Is your child ready for kindergarten? As preschool years come to an end, parents’ thoughts turn to kindergarten readiness. In an effort to make sure children are academically prepared, parents are looking to Kindergarten Prep programs for their little ones. The national trend toward education standards has many parents concerned about their child’s ability to perform on tests and their readiness to tackle more advanced curriculum. Because of this concern, many parents believe that the most important skill set for their kindergartener is knowing their alphabet, numbers, and even sight words. But responsible early childhood educators know that there are other equally, if not more important, readiness skills that determine a child’s ability to succeed in kindergarten. Kindergarten Prep programs that are addressing “readiness” in a responsible way are also fostering an environment that promotes a love of learning, self-regulating skills, social skills, and the development of strong fine motor skills. As parents educate themselves to the factors that truly determine kindergarten readiness, they will be able to seek out Kindergarten Prep programs that address the child’s emotional, social, physical, as well as academic needs.
Parents who are focused on academics may be surprised to learn how important other factors are in determining whether a child will flourish in a kindergarten environment. When it comes to kindergarten readiness, teaching a child to recognize a number or a letter seems like a small task as opposed to encouraging independence, developing fine motor skills, or the ability to listen and cooperate! A good Kindergarten Prep program will address the whole child and will set the groundwork for a solid transition to the “big school”. When considering a Kindergarten Prep program look for a program that addresses the following:
Teaching Oral Language Skills
Research shows that one of the best predictors of later reading success is a well-developed oral vocabulary. PreK kids are learning vocabulary at an amazing rate of five to six words a day. Varied and rich experiences in the world around them provide children a solid base for increasing oral language skills. Kindergarten Prep programs that provide outdoor experiences, story time, singing, engaging social interaction and sensory experiences are a great way to develop oral skills needed for a successful kindergarten experience.
Teaching Listening Skills
Kindergarteners who are ready to learn are also those who are able to listen. Listening is a key part of school behavior. The ability to follow directions and concentrate on what the teacher is saying is crucial in terms of kindergarten readiness. Children who have been read to are able to listen and focus in a way that a child who has had endless screen time (TV or computer) cannot. When asked to use their own words to retell a story they remembered, those children with too much computer time do poorly compared to children who have been exposed to books. Following simple two-step instructions such as “Take off your boots and put on your shoes” are crucial for kindergarten readiness—more important than the ability to navigate a keyboard. Children’s literature serves as a rich and effective source for fostering listening skills as well expanding language. Kindergarten Prep programs that dedicate a part of their day to group and private story time produce students with the ability to listen and succeed in a kindergarten environment. When children are actively engaged in this process critical thinking skills are also improved. (It is important to note that this isn’t about the child reading aloud, but the ability of the child to listen, assimilate, and re-construct what is being read that assists in the ever-important task of listening).
Teaching self-help skills are one of the most important aspects of a good Kindergarten Prep program. When children enter the classroom unable (or unwilling) to do and take care of themselves, it leaves little room for effective classroom learning. Kindergarten Prep programs that assist children in maneuvering independently throughout their day provide the tools they need to succeed in kindergarten. Programs that provide “life skill” lessons built into their schedules are very effective in teaching little ones independence. Emphasis on arrival and departure from the outdoors in terms of coats and boots on and off, buttons and snaps fastened and unfastened, coats or jackets hung neatly up, (all independently), create important rhythms and habits for the child. This also extends to bathroom visits and hand washing. Lunch or snack time also provides a wonderful opportunity to instill independence through the set-up, opening and closing of packaging, pouring, and clean-up. Kindergarten Prep programs that treat these tasks as part of the learning process will provide your child with the tools they need to succeed in a kindergarten environment.
Teaching Social Skills
A Kindergarten Prep program that will develop and refine essential social skills such as sharing, turn-taking, compromising, and problem-solving provides the greatest readiness tool for a child on the threshold of kindergarten. In essence, it is the ability to play well with others (the operative word being play) that promotes the confidence, empathy, and compassion valued by kindergarten teachers. A Kindergarten Prep course that places the same importance on play as it does letter recognition will best prepare your child for emotional, social, and academic success in kindergarten. Why is play important? Play is the ultimate integrator of a child’s experience. Children draw upon their past experiences-things they have read about, observed or done-and use these experiences to create and recreate new activities. Play is the chief vehicle for the development of social skills. Through the various types of play— parallel, associative, and cooperative— children react to one another socially. Play is the vehicle through which children learn to respond emotionally to one another. Traits such as generosity, compassion, cooperation, and problem-solving are learned through play. Not only does play enhance social skills, it also helps refine both large and small motor skills: those skills needed for writing. Play reflects knowledge and creates thought. It develops imagination and the understanding of nonverbal communication. In short, play provides an understanding of the physical and social world. The integration of these behaviors is key to the cognitive development required for a positive kindergarten experience.
Teaching Basic Letter and Number Recognition
Kindergarten teachers will teach their students to recognize letters, numbers, and write during the course of the school year. While teachers hope that incoming students can recognize letters or numbers by sight, they don’t want children drilled with workbooks, flashcards or phonic kits. Many of the lessons unfold naturally throughout the course of the day: the scrambling of magnetic letters, toys that encourage thought of colors and shapes, or the counting of pretend cookies for a tea party all lead to the same outcome, albeit in a more accommodating way. Kindergarten Prep programs that integrate these lessons into the rhythm of the day through the manipulation of age-appropriate toys, story and song time, and poetry and rhymes will provide a strong base for future learning. A good program teaches through immersion.
Fostering and Enthusiasm for Learning
The most successful kindergartener will be an eager learner: the child who is eager to explore, discover and ask questions. A ergarten Prep program that provides a warm environment and is dedicated to educating the whole child will serve your child and your family well in your desire for a smooth transition from preschool to kindergarten.