Kindergarten Preparation Activities

Got a little one starting kindergarten soon? Try these learning activities.

Mixed race mother watching daughter color
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Question: What sort of kindergarten preparation should I be doing with my preschooler?

I brought my 4-year-old daughter to kindergarten registration last week and was a little concerned about what I was hearing. While we were waiting our turn to meet with the kindergarten teacher, there was a group of moms there talking about all of the things they were doing in terms of kindergarten preparation.  Some used workbooks and flashcards—one even hired a tutor! I always thought my little girl is clever, and never even considered doing academic work with her. In fact our preschool is more social based! Now I feel like a failure as a mom because she is going to start her academic career so far behind! In the few months that we have left before school begins, what types of learning activities should I be doing with her?

First of all, relax. Even as an adult, it's easy to get caught up in parental peer pressure -- watching what everyone else is doing and questioning your own beliefs and value systems. So take a deep breath and be confident in your own parenting instincts and skills.

When it comes to kindergarten preparation, there are some things you can do, but most them involve social niceties -- making sure your child has good self care skills, a sense of independence, and most importantly, an eagerness to learn. While knowledge of basics such as the alphabet, the numbers 1 through 10, shapes, and colors are helpful, the kindergarten teacher has plenty of curriculum she'll need to go over and has a host of tools at her disposal to educate her students.

Still, some parents feel like they need to engage in kindergarten preparation by  reviewing certain fundamentals with their little one, and that's OK. Just make sure that the learning activities are fun and that you don't put any pressure on your child.

Here are four important things you can work on:

  1. Communication skills In order for your child to do well in a kindergarten classroom (or any classroom for that matter), his communication skills need to honed. To build language skills, there are a few things you can do. First off, talk to your child. Yes, you talk to your child every day, but try to focus on using new words -- descriptive words that will help your little one increase her vocabulary. For example, if you are making tacos for dinner together, talk about the colors of the ingredients, what they smell and taste like, and how they are similar and different from what you had the dinner the night before.
  1. Letter and number recognition It is helpful if you child can recognize a majority of letters and the numbers 1 through 10 by sight. But you do not need to hire a kindergarten teacher to tutor your child in these basic skills, just play a few fun learning activities -- no flashcards required!
    • While you are playing blocks or cars, or any type of toy that has a good number, ask your child to count out to a certain number.
    • Pick up a package of magnet letters and numbers (compare prices) that you can keep on the refrigerator. See if your child can pick out the letters in her name, or ask him to find the number of chairs in the kitchen.
    • Point out letters and numbers wherever you go, whether it is the sign on a store, or road markers.
  2. Work on fine motor skills In kindergarten, your child is going to be doing a lot of writing, coloring, and cutting. Help her build up her fine motor skills through various activities, and yes toys. Scissors can be especially hard to master, so in addition, let her practice cutting on paper that is easily sliced through, such as coupons found in your Sunday newspaper.
  1. Listening skills Being able to listen and comprehend what people say is also very important. To increase your child's listening skills, read together, but mix it up a little. For pre-readers who are familiar with a book to the point of memorization, substitute a silly word in the text and see if your child catches your mistake ("I do not like green eggs and ham, I do not like them Pete-I-Am!"). While reading a newer story, ask your child to rhyme certain words within the text ("Can you think of some words that rhyme with ham?") or see if she can identify the opposite ("What do you think the opposite of 'in' is?") When you are finished with the book, ask critical thinking questions about what you just read, such as what she thinks is going to happen next or what a character was feeling at a certain part of the book.

No matter what skills you review with your little one, the key is to let the learning activities happen organically, and to not have it feel like work for either of you!

For more on how to help your child transition to kindergarten from a social and emotion standpoint, read Transitioning to Kindergarten. And if you are wondering what exactly happens at kindergarten registration, read What to Expect at Kindergarten Registration

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