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How To Prepare Your Child for Kindergarten: Be A Star Pupil!
Starting Kindergarten is an exciting time for both parents and children. It’s a big step in your child’s life and is often one of their first major opportunities to demonstrate independence. Although the changes can lead to lots of fun and excitement, they can also give rise to uncertainty and anxiety. It’s not uncommon for parents to start worrying about whether their children will be ready for the challenges kindergarten brings or how they might cope with the new environment, new rules and separation. But there’s no need to be concerned. With these tips on how to prepare your child for kindergarten, they’ll be the teacher’s pet in no time! And as always, toys are your number one tool to get the job done!
For more, check out Authority Magazine’s interview with me on 5 Things Parents Can Do To Help Their Child Thrive and Excel In School by Authority Magazine!
Although there are many skills that kindergarten teachers love to see in new students, many are not actually required at the beginning of the school year and all good teachers recognise this. Their job is to provide support, love, and guidance for your child so that they can develop the necessary skills to succeed in primary school. However, there are definitely a few core skills that should be well developed by the time they reach kindy. These include social skills, emotional skills and potty training.
How to Prepare Your Child For Kindergarten: Core Skills
1. Social Skills
Children need to have a strong foundation in social skills to be successful in Kindergarten. If they cannot get along with other children, sit and listen as the teacher talks, or share and interact without conflict (most of the time, they are kids after all), they won’t be able to learn. If they struggle with the concepts of functioning in a classroom setting, there will be no energy left to gather any other new information in their spongy little brains!
- If not already, enrol your child in childcare for one day a week or one day a fortnight in the months leading up to kindergarten. For three to four-year-olds, this is basically a replica environment to kindergarten and is a perfect place for them to develop familiarity with how kindy will work. Make sure you enrol them on a day where you can be flexible with drop-off/pick-up times as it may take a few sessions for them to adjust and make new friends
- Join playgroups or have playdates, the longer the session the better. Playing with other children will help your little one learn how to positively interact with others and provides you with a chance to offer advice and work through any challenges if things go a little awry
- Use stuffed animals or purchase a hand puppet set, such as the Happy Kids Hand Puppets 8-piece set to practice social situations or play school with them.
- Make sure to work with your child on the importance of sharing, a skill that will be fundamental to their success at kindergarten. Check out New Baby Toys detailed guide on teaching toddlers to share here.
- Lastly, remember to make sure your child is getting solid and consistent sleep every day! This is vital to their success in everything they do and will ensure they have the energy and resilience to tackle their new environment.
2. Emotional Skills
Emotional skills focus on your child’s ability to manage and regulate their emotions. Undoubtedly, there will be times when things don’t go their way, they feel sad, or they get angry at others. On the flip side, they may get overstimulated and giddy with excitement, leading to unacceptable actions like hitting or being unable to calm down. These are not unusual responses for a child to have given all the changes kindergarten brings and while they should not be encouraged, they should also not be punished. What’s important is that they recognise when they have responded inappropriately and they learn to manage their emotions next time rather than becoming inconsolable, uncontrollable or violent.
- You should be starting these lessons with your child from a very young age. There is no tried-and-true method for helping a child to manage their emotions but at the heart of most methods is the critical role a parent must play in setting clear boundaries and expectations. Your child should recognise right from wrong, good from bad and positive from negative, through the feedback they receive from the grown-ups in their life.
- Again, enrolling your child in daycare or setting up playdates can allow them to experience all the emotions in a safe environment where you can intervene if necessary
- Developing your child’s independence is also a key factor. This will allow them to learn that they can be safe without their parents being immediately present and will also help them to feel comfortable playing on their own if they don’t immediately make friends at kindy. Encouraging solo play is great for building independence and should be something you practice well before going to kindergarten. You can also provide them with toys that allow them greater mobility and freedom. Balance bikes and scooters are perfect for this
- Talking to your children about their emotions is also important. This one can be a little tough, as it’s hard to break down emotions to a level that a child can understand. Luckily there are some great books that can help you, such as “Listening to My Body” by Gabi Garcia or “I Can Handle It” by Laurie Wright, both of which are great for helping your little one understand their emotions and know what to do if strong feelings come up at school.
- Sleep is also important for emotional skills development. Implementing a bedtime routine not only supports the length and consistency in sleep times but research has also shown that sleep routine supports emotional and behavioural regulation in children. Check out a great guest post I’ve written on implementing bedtime routines here
- Lastly, be sure that your child understands that when you drop them off at kindergarten, you will always return at the end of the day to pick them up. This will provide them with confidence that the separation is only temporary and after a few days of demonstrated action that the promise of your return is true, they will trust you when you reassure them that you’ll be back at the end of the school day to give them a big cuddle!
3. Potty Training
Most kindergartens have specific policies on toilet training and in my experience, most expect that children are capable of recognising the need to go potty and to take themselves to the toilet or ask for help. Teachers are usually fine with assisting children in going to the toilet when they ask, but it’s usually frowned upon if your child is still weeing and pooing their pants without any warning. You may be lucky and your child’s school may be more lenient in this area than those I’m familiar with, but this is definitely something you should get clarity on early. If you’d like to avoid regularly getting calls in the middle of the day to pick up your child and their soiled pants from school early, I highly recommend you broach this topic with the new school well before your child’s first day. This should give you some time to prepare accordingly if need be.
- As I always say, every child is unique and special and every child will need a different approach to help them learn this fundamental skill. Some children will pick it up very easily and some will struggle. Some kids will be great at number ones and terrible at number twos (this way my boy…) and some may be the other way around. Either way, this one is often a sensitive area for toddlers and may take time and patience. Luckily you can begin potty training almost as soon as they can walk, so get a potty and get training!
- There are some great guides out there like this one, so do a little research and try things out. Remember, don’t be too wedded to any one approach, just let your child’s feedback show you whether you’re having success and if not, try something different and remain patient with them. They will get there!
How to Prepare Your Child For Kindergarten: Extra-Credit Skills
Beyond the core skills, there are others that will be very beneficial for your child to have before they get to kindergarten, earning them some extra credit with the teacher from day 1! Your little one doesn’t need to master these, but having had some practice with these skills will help your child adjust to the changes and support their engagement in the learning process. These include knowing most of their letters, counting to 20, writing their name, and using scissors. Here are a few tips and toys to help you with how to prepare your child for kindergarten before walking through the school doors.
1. Letter and Number Recognition
If you’re lucky, your child may already know most if not all their capital letters and numbers to 20, but if they don’t, that’s ok! Children learn best through play, so putting worksheets and flashcards in front of them is not necessarily going to be effective. Instead, try playing interactive games with them or provide them with toys that will teach those concepts as they play!
- The World of Eric Carle ABC/123 Two-sided Puzzle, from the genius behind The Very Hungry Caterpillar, is a fantastic toy to help your child with letters and numbers. It has bright, engaging colors, and it presents the letters and numbers with familiar shapes to solidify learning
- The Gamenote Magic Alphabet Maze is ideal for children working on matching lowercase letters to their uppercase partners. It utilizes a magnet wand similar to a pencil, which will also help your child work on the pincer grasp needed for writing
- Reading! There are loads of books on letters and numbers that are fun and engaging for children, but the simple act of reading is a fantastic way to build your child’s vocabulary and help them understand letters, words and sentences
- One of the simplest yet most effective math toys out there is a pegboard set with numbers. The Wolves Wood-Work 1-10 Number Boards are a perfect example of the simplicity of this type of toy. It encourages number recognition, counting skills, and fine motor development
- The Inpher Frog Balance Math Game is also another great toy. Check out New Baby Toys in-depth review here
2. Writing Their Name
This can be a tough one because we tend to want to help and fix things we see as “wrong,” but immediate correction can actually be detrimental. The best way to help a child write their name is through repeated practice and demonstration. If your child struggles with the pincer (3- fingered) grasp, it is most likely because those muscles are yet to be fully developed, and that’s OK. The development of fine motor skills is another area that you may want to learn about and if you’re interested you can check out the New Baby Toys article here. Otherwise, these great toys can help you out!
- If your child struggles to hold writing utensils, Playdoh is one of the best ways to strengthen their finger muscles. You can also play with water droppers, oversized tweezers, and wooden clothespins
- The Fisher-Price Think and Learn Alpha-Slide Writer is a fantastic writing tool. It erases instantly so your child can start over and over. The letters are all moveable and show where they fit within the paper lines. Your child can slide the letters around to practice writing different words while having a visual guide to go by!
- Again, it goes without saying that reading is an important activity that supports understanding of how letters go together to form words. You should be reading with your child every day
- Letter poster charts are also a great way for your child to familiarise themselves with the different letters. I often found my little boy pointing out the letters in his name on the chart as a fun little activity he liked to do by himself. So get some Blu Tack and stick one up in your child’s room today!
- Practicing on a classic whiteboard or chalkboard is also a great idea, just be sure to writing implements that are appropriate for little hands (think fat texters and giant chalk). This Water Doodle Play Mat is also a great way to practice, and very easy to clean!
3. Scissor Skills
Scissor skills require many of the same muscles as writing, so anything you do to build on one area will benefit the other. There are specific books and toys you can purchase that target scissor use. As an FYI, scissor skills are not fully developed until your child is 6 years old.
- Melissa & Doug’s Scissor Skills Sea Life Activity Book is a great choice. This book makes it fun to practice cutting and tearing to work those little fingers!
- There are a wide variety of scissor skill books on the market, and there isn’t one that is necessarily better than others. You should look for quality paper; a paper that is too thin will frustrate a child. Also, be sure to purchase a good pair of safety scissors.
- The Learning Resources Helping Hands Fine Motor Tool Set Toy can be played with in the bathtub, at the beach, on a water and sand table, or pretty much anywhere! The variety of toys will ensure those hands are getting the workout they need.
How To Prepare Your Child For Kindergarten So They'll Be The Teacher's Pet!
Wherever your child is starting school, Kindergarten is an exciting time. If you can remember how to prepare your child for kindergarten, follow these tips and practice with these toys, they will be well on their way to excelling in class and learning to love school! Just remember that they are going to be OK so take a deep breath, give lots of hugs, remind them you’ll be back later, and let them go!
How About A New Toy For The Little One?
This is our jam! Baby toys are what we’re all about, so you’re sure to find something exciting, educational and super-duper fun! Why not check out loads of great ideas right here!
And if you’re just starting your baby toy journey, then it’s best to begin with the basics by taking a look at our Definitive Guide to the Best Toys for Babies. Here, we’ll teach you everything you need to know to get those creative juices flowing and help you find the perfect baby toy.