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Countdown to kindergarten: Preparing kids for school


Courtesy of First Things First

NORTH VALLEY – School is out, and many families have summer pool parties and vacations in mind. For parents and caregivers of children under 5 years old, summer is also a great opportunity to help kids going into kindergarten prepare for success!

Today’s schools expect 5-year-olds to arrive with basic academic and social skills so they are prepared on day one to start learning to read, write and do basic math.

Being prepared for kindergarten requires more than academic skills, said Wendy Jung, a kindergarten teacher in the Tempe Elementary School District.

“Kindergarten today is really more like first grade used to be,” Jung said. “Children have to sit still a lot, but kindergarten is not just an academic experience. It’s also a social experience.”

When 4,500 kindergarten teachers were asked what skills a child should have to help ease a his or her transition to school, the answers included:

Pretends to read. Understands that words are read from left to right. Looks at pictures and tells a story.
Recognizes own name and tries to write it.
Counts to 10 and can count objects.
Pays attention and follows simple directions. Can repeat sequences of numbers, sounds and parts of stories.
Controls a pencil and crayon well. Cuts shapes and pastes them on paper.
Is toilet trained. Dresses self. Brushes own teeth.
Recognizes authority. Shares with others. Works independently.

Routines, especially sleep schedules, can help children to be ready for kindergarten, Jung said.

“Children who are successful have routines and schedules that didn’t just start when kindergarten started,” she said. “Parents can be thinking about how early children will need to get up during the school year and adjust bedtime during the summer.”

First Things First offers the following tips to families and caregivers to help prepare their child for kindergarten.

Reading – Read with your child at least 20 minutes per day. Try books that repeat words about familiar objects; involve activities like counting, identifying colors, objects or letters; or, are about things your child likes. Ask questions about the story like, “What do you think happens next?”
Talking – Talk and sing with your child everywhere – at home, in the car, at the store. Make up stories or songs about your outings.
Routines – Help your child get used to the structure of the school day by establishing regular routines for waking up and dressing, meal times, and bath and bed times. Do a test-run of the big day by practicing all the activities that will happen in the morning and at school. This will help overcome any fears. Include waking up at the scheduled time, walk to the bus stop, and talk about where to sit. If you drive, talk about landmarks on the way. Pack a lunch and practice opening things together.
Early writing – Writing begins with scribbling. Give your child safe writing tools to play with, like crayons, chalk or markers and blank paper. Ask your child to tell you about their drawings. Use salt or coffee grounds as a tactile way to practice writing alphabet letters.
Talk change – Start talking to your child about the change that is coming when they start school. Be positive, and give your child the opportunity to ask questions or express fears. Read books with your child about starting kindergarten.

For more tips to prepare kids over the summer for their first day of school and success beyond, First Things First offers resources at in the Parent Section under Early Education.