Notes on Parenting

Insights for parenting babies, toddlers, teens, and young adults.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Preparing Your Child for School

As parents, we all want to help our children be successful. Sometimes it is hard to know what we can be doing with our pre-school aged children to help prepare them for their futures. As I help to prepare my own daughter for kindergarten, I want to make sure she is ready so that starting school can be a smooth transition. There are some important things parents can be doing on a daily basis to help their children prepare for kindergarten and for life. The following is a list created by the Utah State Office of Education and the Office of Child Care (my additional comments are in italics):

  • Allow your child to do things independently even if he/she takes longer than doing it yourself. This can be challenging for parents because we are often in a hurry and just want to help, but think of how we are limiting a child when we don't allow him to dress himself, put shoes on by himself, or zip up his coat by himself. We are also adding extra challenges for a teacher to deal with.

  • Provide plenty of social experiences for your child. Whether in a formal or informal playgroup, preschool, or other setting, your child will learn skills that can only be taught by other children. Sharing objects or time with an adult is different from doing so with another child. Children develop their imaginations by role-playing and pretending. Pretend play has been consistently linked to cognitive, intellectual, language, and social growth.

  • Provide daily opportunities to develop strength and coordination of large and small muscles. Go to the park, play ball games, play tag; practice lacing, pour, stir, and participate in other functional activities.

  • Play games where your child counts out loud such as hide and seek, play board games that require your child to count the dots on a die (Chutes and Ladders is a great game to start out with), use household items such as cans, boxes, and balls to explore shapes. Complete puzzles and play with interlocking building toys.

  • Provide plenty of opportunities and materials for writing and creative expression: crayons, sand, water, paint, paper, markers, scissors, hole punch, yarn, beans, and popsicle sticks. Don't be afraid of messes. Children develop coordination and motor skills when they are allowed to make a mess and be creative.

  • Read picture books, poetry books, nonfiction books, nonsense books, nursery rhymes, and signs. Exposure to a wide variety of literature allows your child to learn different sentence patterns and hear vocabulary that you might not ordinarily use at home.

  • Talk WITH your child. (You talk TO your child when giving directions.) LISTEN to your child's stories. TELL your child stories. ASK questions. SHARE your ideas using descriptive language. Children learn language when they HEAR it and USE it.

  • Visit your local library or bookmobile regularly.

As we work with our children on a daily basis, they will develop the skills they need to be prepared for school. Sometimes lists like this can seem overwhelming, but many of these items can easily be incorporated into the schedules and routines we have already developed. Use common every-day opportunities as learning experiences. For example, when on a walk or a car ride with your children, have them point out different shapes or colors that they find. Have your child help you prepare something in the kitchen. Count with her as you measure ingredients. When cleaning up, have your child pick up everything of one color or have him count as he picks up items. Hopefully these suggestions have helped you to think of an area where you can help your child in furthering his/her learning.

Which suggestion was your favorite? Which of these areas do you find the most challenging to incorporate into a typical week?

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