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How to Prepare Your Child for Kindergarten

How to Prepare Your Child for Kindergarten
March 3, 2023

As teachers and educational consultants, we constantly hear from families wondering how to prepare your child for kindergarten. The most basic answer is: let them play! We mean it - children learn the most at this age from unstructured play time in a variety of environments. But there are many other types of activities and skills that parents can focus on in the months leading up to kindergarten. 

How to Prepare Your Child for Kindergarten, Academically 

There are a variety of “hard skills” that children need to have in their arsenal before starting kindergarten. These include letter and number recognition, phonemic awareness, rhyming, sequencing, patterning, and an understanding of opposites. These types of competencies are their pre-literacy and pre-mathematical foundations that will serve as building blocks for more learning. 

But knowing which skills your child ought to know is really only half the battle: making these skills fun, especially over the summer, is what many parents see as the challenge. We recommend finding ways to incorporate games to keep your child engaged, particularly full-body activities that have them running around, like a scavenger hunt around the house. Other ideas include:

  • Using Play-Doh or clay to form letters, shapes and numbers
  • Playing rhyming games where each family member has to think of a word that rhymes
  • Collecting shells or other natural objects that fit within a certain pattern (great for beach vacations or hikes)
  • Recognizing letters or numbers while reading off of a menu at a restaurant

Of course, another critical activity that can happen day-in and day-out is reading. So much learning takes place when a child follows a story, begins to match up letters and words with what they hear, and thinks critically about the themes of a book. Reading is also one of the best ways to spend quality bonding time with your child. 

How to Prepare Your Child for Kindergarten, Socio-Emotionally

While the months leading up to kindergarten are an important time to build hard skills, you shouldn’t forget about socio-emotional readiness as you consider how to prepare your child for kindergarten. Practicing things like taking responsibility, sharing, taking turns, and following a routine can help ease your child’s transition to a structured classroom environment. There are several ways to build these skills into your day-to-day: 

  • Make an activity chart or simple schedule so your child can understand what is happening each day, and can begin to transition themselves from one part of the schedule to another; bonus points if you let your child write out part of the activities themselves to practice letters and numbers
  • Give your child increasing responsibility over their care: they can practice how to brush their teeth, pick out outfits, tie their shoes, brush their hair, clean up their room, and even prepare simple meals/snacks
  • Similarly, give your child increasing responsibility over other types of activities, like cooking or baking with you: let them pick out a recipe, measure out certain ingredients, and perform other child-safe tasks like washing dishes 

All of these activities give children a sense of independence and confidence, which they’ll need as they transition to a new environment, meet new people, and are introduced to new activities for the first time. 

Planning for the Kindergarten Transition

Some parents assume that children will have an easy time transitioning to kindergarten because they’ve already attended preschool. While this is certainly true for some students, it’s important to keep in mind that kindergarten is still a big jump: your child will likely be meeting a new teacher, making new friends, and probably spending more time at school with a more structured classroom environment. Therefore, it’s important to prepare your child for this transition in the summer before kindergarten. 

Speaking often about school is exciting for some kids, but it may produce anxiety for others. Try to gauge how much it benefits your child to talk actively about the school transition, versus keeping preparation more casual. (For example, you could specifically point out that a certain one of the above activities will be similar to what your child will do in kindergarten, or you could choose not to bring up school during that playtime.) 

Regardless, we do recommend focusing on a couple of basics to help your child look ahead to the school year. Create a calendar for the month leading up to the start of school so your child can cross off each day; this helps them understand the passing of time, and makes sure that the first day doesn’t creep up on them. If possible, it’s also a good idea to take your child to their new school once or twice to familiarize them with the physical setting and make the drop-off transition easier in those first days. Don’t forget that this will all be new to your child, even if you’ve been thinking about it for months! 

Even if you’re nervously wondering how to prepare your child for kindergarten, rest assured: you’re doing a great job just by parenting them and playing with them. In fact, the most important thing to remember is to just have fun. While we want to avoid the “summer slide” ahead of kindergarten, it’s equally important to ensure that your child enjoys learning and playing - we don’t want it to feel like a chore before school even begins. 

Figuring out where to send your child for kindergarten? Look no further - Admit NY offers personalized guidance for the New York City school system, both public and private. Reach out today to start a conversation.