Preparing your Child for Kindergarten: Social, Academic and Motor Skills

It’s the middle of July, but I am already starting to think about September and the new school year.  My son will be starting kindergarten in a French immersion program, and I want him to be well prepared for this important step in his life.  I really don’t want him to come back from school saying “I hate school; I don’t want to go back there”.  

I realize that I may be thinking too much about this issue, but I want my son to start the school year with the idea that school is fun, exciting and that is a fact of life.  

But, can school be fun? I know, most kids (and adults) would probably say no.  I prefer to believe that school can be fun, and that kids can have fun while learning and exploring new things.  I know that we can probably have long discussions on the topic “can school be fun?” (perhaps, the subject for a different post?), but all that is important for me right now is that my little one enjoys his first year in the school system. 

Is your child prepared for kindergarten?
What do we do when we want to start something new? Well, I don’t know you, but when I start something new or different, I always feel that it helps me if I do a bit of preparation. I try to get basic information, I see if I can practice or I ask questions to other people.

Of course, my son does not know anything about "preparation", but I do and feel that it helps with new, and challenging situations.  So, I figure that if I want to help him be prepared for kindergarten, it may be a good idea if I make certain that he possesses the basic preparation or expected skills needed when beginning kindergarten.  As most experts say, getting ready for kindergarten involves more than just learning the ABCs. Along with juggling learning letters, sounds, numbers, and rhymes, new social experiences like taking turns and going to school for an entire day need to be considered as well. 

Tasks such as holding a pencil and listening to a story with a group are some of the vital skills that children entering kindergarten will be expected to know at the beginning of the school year. Thus, it is important that we consider exposing our children to these types of experiences during the year before kindergarten so they will become familiar with them.  Experts suggests different ways to achieve this, including joining a play group, attending story hour at the local library, and encouraging interaction with new friends. If your child has been at a day-care center or a pre-school center, he is already familiar with most of these activities.

Basic Skills
Although each child is unique and develops at his or her own pace, most educators and developmental experts agree upon a certain set of social and “academic” skills as essential tools for further development and achievement in school.

Here is a checklist that I put together using information from various websites.  Overall, the idea is that a child should have a certain exposure to, or knowledge (not need to be an expert!) of these skills before entering kindergarten. 

Social Skills
·        Uses words to solve problems or conflicts
·        Uses words such as please, thank you and excuse me (i.e., good manners)
·        Adjusts to new situations: attempts new tasks knowing it’s okay to make mistakes
·        Follows a simple direction
·        Play independently or focus on one activity with a friend for up to 10 minutes
·        Asks for help
·        Interacts appropriately with adults and peers
·        Works cooperatively (listens to others, shares and takes turns)
·        Participates in clean-up activities
·        Takes responsibility for own belongings (lunch, coat, etc.)
·        Dress him- or herself
·        Uses appropriate bathroom skills
·        Follows simple safety rules
·        Separates from parents easily

Academic & Concept-development Skills
  • Repeat his full name, address, phone number, and birthday
  •  Identify some letters of the alphabet
  • Write his first name using upper- and lowercase letters, if possible
  • Count and recognizes some numbers (1 to 10)
·       Matches or groups objects according to size, shape or color
·       Shows an understanding of "place" words, or prepositions, such as "under," "above," "beside," and "through," as well as words that describe time, such as "before" and "after."
·       Experiments enthusiastically with new games and toys, sometimes in a trial-and-error manner
·       Describes how objects are the same or different
  • Talks in sentences
·       Uses descriptive language; creates his/her own stories (shows creativity)
·       Compares the size of groups of objects using language such as “more,” “less” and “same as”
·       Arranges objects in size order (big to small, or small to big)
·       Uses comparison words, like "bigger," "smaller," "heavier," etc.
·       Identifies and draws a square, circle and triangle
·       Recognizes some numbers, 1 – 10
·       Can distinguish numbers from letters, and understands that numbers relate to quantity

Motor Skills
·          Use scissors, glue, paint, and other art materials with relative ease
·          Grip a pencil, crayon, or marker correctly (with the thumb and forefinger supporting the tip)
·          Bounce a ball
·          Puts puzzles together
·          Builds using blocks
·          Tries to tie own shoes
·          Bounces, kicks, throws and catches a ball

Finally, more important than anything listed above, I think that it is crucial that we show them our unconditional love during this important step of their life!

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