Parents these days are so interested in making sure their kids are ahead of the pack. Little do they know that this can many times be detrimental to a child’s development. Super academic preschools have cropped up and moms love to tout that their little genius is already reading chapter books! Many times this can be based on fear and feelings of competitiveness between parents, not what’s best for kiddos. So, what does your child really need to know by the time he or she reaches kindergarten? It’s pretty simple, really:
- identify letters (upper and lower case), shapes, and colors
- recite letter sounds
- know how to rhyme
- identify numbers and count up to 30
- write first and last name
- behave, listen, and use manners in a group setting
Readiness is such a huge aspect to teaching a child. If you try to teach a child to read before he or she is ready or teach it incorrectly, it can result in discouragement, disinterest, and difficulties later. Equally as important, many parents jump ahead to trying to teach reading and math facts, and they neglect basics like rhyming, letter sounds, and counting which are absolutely crucial to learning to read and calculate later. There are some kids who pick up reading on their own very early and easily. Great, go with it, but let your child take the lead. Also, remember this is more the exception than the norm.
1.) At age 3 or 4, find a preschool with a strong philosophy of play, socialization, and one that follows Common Core Standards appropriate for the preschool age group.
2.) Don’t give in to your competitive nature and push your child to be “ahead” of his or her peers. Focus more on quality time speaking, reading, and playing together. These activities make for a happy child who will excel later in school, and have social intelligence.
3.) Speak with and read to your child all the time. Don’t “dumb down” your vocabulary when talking with your toddler. Play audio books in the car, attend children’s theater events, go to the library regularly, and explore local museum exhibits. Do anything that submerses your child in rich language. (Check out audio books by Arnold Lobel, they were my boys’ favorite!)
4.) Don’t choose a preschool that is intensely academic. There is a reason for state and national standards. Education professionals well versed in child development put these learning goals into place for good reason- the sequence matters. Also, read studies from Scandinavia where children don’t start formal reading instruction until age 6 or 7. Again, readiness is key. By the way, time of readiness has nothing to do with overall intelligence. Boys are known to be ready later than girls when it comes to literacy.
5.) Trade screen time (TV, iPad, iPhone, Kindle, etc.) for down time and imaginative play. Studies show that even the background noise of a TV makes it difficult for your child engage in imaginative play. Play music, audio books, or allow some silence in your home for a change.
6.) Encourage time outdoors in nature – dirt, bugs, animals, water, fresh air… get outside and explore! Studies show regular outdoor play reduces the incidence of anxiety, ADD, and ADHD, which will negatively impact learning later on.
Being prepared for kindergarten is, like most things, more simple than it seems. You can provide everything your child needs by setting aside quality time for interactions that really matter.