It seems just like yesterday that your child said, “Mama” and then walked on wobbly legs with arms outstretched trying to get to you.
You’ve answered a hundred “Why” questions on a daily basis and you have loved nurturing your child. You are your child's first teacher. Now, your child is on the cusp of getting ready for kindergarten.
Things have changed so much that you are not sure if your child is ready for kindergarten.
Your child is smart and you are thinking, “How can I get my child ready for school?”
Maybe you are wondering what other skills you can work on with your child.
What is school readiness and why is it important?
Hi, I’m Dr. Vidaurre and as a mother, grandmother, and an educational expert for over twenty-five years. I’d like to share with you my recommendations on how you can help your child at home.
School readiness refers to whether your child will make a successful transition into the classroom with age appropriate developmental skills. These are many skills that fall under language, motor, reading, writing, and social-emotional learning.
Why are these skills important?
Imagine helping your child learn how to hold a pencil or use scissors, now imagine helping 20 or more students at a time. What will the other students do while they wait their turn?
Teachers will absolutely go above and beyond to help each student but time is very valuable to learning as well. When your child has mastered school readiness skills they’ll be eager and ready to learn more.
If your child has exposure to developmental skills at home they will benefit from the next stages of learning in school. No more waiting to be taught how to cut and glue things but they'll be excited to feel like a big kid doing it all on their own. I’m sure you have heard your child at this age say, “I’ll do it!”
Your child’s sense of independence is very noticeable at this age.
School Readiness Skills
Fine Motor skills means using smaller muscles. Think of all the muscles in your hands. It is important to develop these muscles because it helps with hand-eye coordination, daily tasks in school, & self-care.
- Writing using pencils, markers, and crayons
- Tracing words
- Putting puzzles together
- Using building blocks
- Trying to tie shoes
- Zipping up clothes
- Using buttons
Language skills are essential for communicating educational responses as well as personal ones.
- Able to talk in sentences
- Expresses or describes feelings
- Recites nursery rhymes and/or the alphabet
- Able to follow 1 or 2-step verbal directions
- Tells & retells stories
Early Literacy skills prepare young children for reading
- Knows how to hold a book
- Understands that reading is left to right
- Writes or recognizes name
- Uses pictures to try to read a book
- Knows the alphabet and can identify some letters
Math skills are just as important as literacy skills. Math readiness skills lay the foundation for more complex math topics in elementary grades. It is important to go beyond memorized counting, for example, ask your child for 4 goldfish crackers.
Did you know that young children are natural sorters? Ask your child how they sorted their toys next time you see it in action.
- Knows the difference between numbers and letters
- Can count to 10
- Arranges objects by size, color, or physical appearance
- Uses building blocks to sort and build
- Building number sense -- I have one cookie, you have two
- Starts to recognize shapes such as circle, square, triangle, rectangle
- Begins to to point out when objects are on top, front, back, behind, bottom, over, under, last, first, next, backward, in, on, etc.
Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) - this includes: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision making.
The reason it’s important is because your child will be in a social setting five days a week and many issues may arise. Understanding SEL will help your child cope with strong feelings, set goals, deal with conflicts and have empathy for others.
- Self-awareness being able to identify strong emotions or needs Ex. I am too sleepy to focus
- Self-management controlling impulses and emotions Ex. not jumping around when it’s story time
- Social awareness showing empathy and understanding others’ point of view Ex. classmate is sad because he lost his hat that his dad gave him and he’s too sad to focus on school work
- Relationship skills communicating, teamwork, and problem solving Ex. taking turns, helping others.
- Responsible decision making thinking ahead, cause & effect, understanding why there are school rules Ex. If I rush through erasing, I might rip the paper or if I run inside I might bump into someone.
At home activities to boost school readiness
Here are ways you can incorporate these skills at home.
- Use a marker to outline coupons in the newspaper then ask your child to cut them out with kid scissors.
- Use old magazines or picture books, ask your child to cut and glue pictures to create their own story or book.
- Place a table cover or go outside at a table and place paper, notebook, or coloring books and have your child use markers, pencils or crayons to write or draw. Try not to guide them, just let your child have the freedom to create.
- Have an old shopping list? Give your child a pencil or highlighter and ask them to trace your letters.
- Put rice, salt, or flour in a cake pan and ask your child to write letters, their name, or a list of fun words. This is a fun game you can do together and even make it a copycat game where you write a word then your child writes it. Another common practice is to make swirly lines and continuous circles.
- Playdoh - need I say more? So many possibilities at creating letters, shapes, and words.
- Puzzles, do age-appropriate puzzles together and talk about matching colors and edges of puzzle pieces.
- Build with lego or other blocks and create buildings together.
- Attempt tying shoes with your child, even if they struggle, be consistent with it so they can practice.
- Let your child dress themselves in the morning, model first & let them attempt to zip up their own jackets and button pants
- Have your child put their own straw in their juice/milk cartons.
Language & Literacy
These skills can go hand in hand at home. When you are reading or talking to your child. Reading with your child at an early age has so many benefits.
Your child will always have a positive association with reading if they remember cuddling up with mom or dad and bonding over reading. One thing that I did with my children and now my grandson is to point to the words “God” “Jesus” and Bible” Then, I have them highlight these words in my bible, since I highlight and write in my bible.
- Read/tell both Bible stories and children’s literature. Then take turns discussing it.
- While reading picture books ask spatial questions such as, what is on top of the tree, what is behind the building, what’s under the car, who’s first, etc.
- Ask your child to use a pointer stick or pencil to point to words as you read outloud. Recently, my 4-year old grandson said that he is highlighting his “sight words - God, Jesus, Bible in his own Bible.
- Sing a rhyming song.
- Legos and building blocks-- it’s not just play, it’s using math brains by using spatial skills, learning geometric shapes, patterns, and number sense.
- Use narration during math play, “You have a green rectangle, do you want a red square or blue triangle next?”
- Ask action questions “Can you give me 4 pieces, who has more blocks? Do you want 2 circles or 3 triangles?”
- Ask your child to fill measuring cups for water and simple baking
- Slice apples or other fruits and ask, How many pieces are there, how many for you and me?
- Play chutes and ladders board game, give dice to count the dots after every roll.
Social-Emotional Learning (SEL)
Teachers spend quite a big chunk of time solving social issues such as sharing, waiting your turn, not having enough pointy crayons for coloring and so on. I have even had children fight over sharing an eraser.
Kindergarten teachers will usually spend a lot of time using stories to explain SEL topics.
You can prepare your child with language to use in the classroom like the story below.
A Bug & a Wish activity - “ It bugs me when you… I wish you would stop.”
Explaining that classmates don’t know what you are thinking or feeling so you have to express yourself respectfully. This is a good time to also talk about the Golden Rule - treat others how you would want them to treat you.
Around age 3 and up children are typically developing awareness of other people’s feelings, so empathy is really easy for them.
“And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.” ~ Hebrews 13:16
This new chapter in your (and your child’s) life can be exciting and worrisome all at the same time but my mission is to empower parents and teachers of young children in holistic development .
Your little one will be in new daily scenarios with other children and their character will really start to shine through. In my other article How To Guide Your Little One To Build Character
Learn simple ways on how to build character with your child.