By Lisa Edwards, M.Ed., Parent Coach
As a parent, we always make tough decisions, and one of those harder ones, is when to send your child to Kindergarten. If your child was born in the months of September – February, this may seem simple, as your child will be close to 5 1/2 when sending them off on their first day in a large class. Others whose children are born in late spring or summer agonize over whether we should send my child to Kindergarten? Or wait a year?
Is my Child Ready for Kindergarten?
It becomes especially more difficult when your child seems to be “behind” in one area or another. I specifically put quotes around “behind” because children all develop at their own pace, and even though we have these benchmarks of where they should be, it is based solely on averages, which doesn’t take into account the uniqueness of each individual.
What they Should Know/Be Able to Do For Kindergarten?
Many parents have a false ideas that their children should be able to do all of these academic tasks before entering Kindergarten. Some think if they don’t know all their letters they are doomed to struggling in school and will always be behind. This simply is not true. Although you will find many checklists with things they should be able to know or do, please understand that these are suggestions.
Often there is so much emphasis on Academics, that parents may be focusing on things that children simply aren’t ready for. Instead, it would be better to look at the whole child and understand what their strengths are. It is then that you can determine if based on their strengths, will they be able to blossom in a classroom environment.
What is Helpful for children to know before entering Kindergarten?
Prior to Kindergarten, your child may have been part of a preschool program, or daycare setting with multiple other children. Keep in mind that these settings are generally staffed at a much lower ratio of students to adults. When they enter a Kindergarten classroom they may be entering a world where suddenly there is one adult with 20 – 25 children. Here are a few qualities that you can help your child develop before sending them off.
Can your child put on their coat on their own? Can they go to the bathroom on their own? Are they able to problem solve? As parents, we often want to do a lot for our children, but the more that we can help them develop their own independence, the better success they will have in school. As a former Kindergarten teacher I will never forget a student of mine that was quite independent. His parents went on a trip for a week, and he then spent a week with his loving doting grandmother that wanted to do everything for him. After that week, I found him laying on the floor before recess with his legs in the air asking me to dress him in his snow pants. My first thought was…no way! But of course, a teacher always teaches, so it was back to helping him understand he was a capable young gentleman that could do this on his own. Although teachers want to help all of their students, there just isn’t time to help 25 young ones with every life skill.
Your child will now be in a small classroom with 25 others. They will need to work together, to share each other’s space, to play together. There is no such thing as alone time during the day. They need to have the skills to share with other children, to problem solve when they are upset. They need to be able to communicate with other children and to advocate for themselves with adults. It is never perfect, and they continue to develop these skills for their entire life (trust me, they forget some of these skills in Middle School). Make sure to give your child plenty of opportunities to interact with different children, in small and large group settings. Watch how they interact and help them problem solve. If a child comes to you to complain that “Milo isn’t sharing.” Instead of jumping in to save the day, ask them what they can do? Can they ask Milo to share? Can they play a game together with the toy? What if Milo has the toy first, and your child gets it after Milo is done? Talk with your children about how they can handle different situations.
Children need to be able to follow directions. The first few weeks, is simply training them how to follow routines, how to sit and listen to a story, when they would rather be playing, or even how to walk in a line. You can help your child by starting to practice giving them simple directions to follow. “Take your plate to the sink.” Then start building to help your child follow multiple step directions. “Put your shoes on and then go stand at the door.”
Students will need to use their bodies in a variety of ways in the classroom. They need to develop both large motor and fine motor skills. Give your child plenty of opportunities to practice large motor skills using their whole bodies such as running, jumping, etc. Fine motor skills are developed with opportunities to hold pencils, crayons, and scissors. Don’t worry about skills such as “coloring in the lines.” Instead, make sure they have practice scribbling on a sheet of paper, and writing their name.
I put this one last on purpose, as many Kindergarten teachers will tell you, children do not need to come to school knowing how to read or being able to multiply. All of these skills can be taught. They want them to have the foundation for learning and school. Help your child to be curious. To wonder about the world around them. In time, the academics will happen.
Should I send my child to Kindergarten
Every child is unique. This is a hard decision, but you need to make the best decision you can about your own child. If you still have questions or want to discuss this, please reach out to your child’s school, or you can contact one of us at Champion Your Parenting, and we would be happy to help you.
Here are just a few other ways that you can always help your young children at home:
- Read to your child every day.
- Have conversations with your child. Model listening and asking questions.
- Give them opportunities to separate from you, to be independent from you.
- Teach them independence and self care skills.
- Send them to preschool/group setting where they can socialize with other children.
- Play Games…these often help with following rules, counting, and cooperation.
- Just have fun with your child. Learning is not about pressure.
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