So much has happened this year, and so much has…not. Earlier this fall there was a lot of back and forth about the reality of preschools (and all schools) being opened, and while some have, it isn’t the majority. Many families aren’t ready to send their littles back. Now we’re in a new year and with so many things coming to light I can almost see my kids going to school in the fall. Until then we are doing what we can to keep our kids ready when they get the chance.
Channeling my background as a former elementary school teacher I keep in the back of my head a checklist of things to keep forefront while my kids are home. While my family made the decision to not send our summer birthday to kinder until she is 6, there are still things we do to keep her on track. We do our best to keep a routine with “circle time” at least twice a week. In my family, this includes a letter of the week, counting, practicing Spanish, Religious Ed, and a story. It’s short and sweet, taking no more than twenty minutes, it is also entirely child-led as kids don’t want to do things they aren’t interested in and it benefits no one to force them.
Early childhood is about learning through play, but when kids hit kindergarten age we hit a big shift in (not entirely developmentally appropriate) expectations. Here are some ideas and tips that you may not have thought of when it comes to keeping your kids ready:
Counting: Not just 123s, but count everywhere all the time, let your kids count out the number of forks to set the table with, ask them what numbers they see on the city bus, or to read you the numbers off the clock on your oven. Practice different stretches or exercises counting in different ways (in Spanish, skip counting, etc)
Letters: Practicing the ABCs is great, but don’t forget sounds or identifying them in print. Start with the first letter in their name, pick a random (or themed) letter every week and practice the sound it makes, and finding it in real print.
Fine motor: Cutting and gluing! Woah! Don’t get too scared. Start by making lines on paper and having your kid cut them until they are scissor confident. Practice holding scissors safely between activities. Use white glue and glue sticks to make projects. Do your kids know how to hold a pencil? Let them draw with different medians. Let them paint with not a paintbrush. Let them lead arts and crafts.
Gross motor: Skipping, jumping, hopping are all things you can randomly ask your kids to do without you. Practicing throwing or kicking a ball are great to do with them!
Shapes, body parts, and colors: Let them lead with real-world application. Expand with 2-D and 3-D shapes (like balls and cans). If your kids are great at their colors or body parts, ask them to identify in another language (if that’s something you’re interested in).
Workbooks: Don’t use a workbook. They aren’t developmentally appropriate and they make kids hate school. The exception is if it is your kids choose to write in them! It must be a child-led choice. If this is something you want to push I suggest getting a dry erase one (markers make practicing letters fun!) or getting a few from the dollar store and letting them lead. Getting a notebook and letting kids just write or draw what they want will lead to some surprising developments all on their own!
Socialization and cooperative play: It’s so SO hard right now but this is the biggest foundation preschoolers need. Siblings are great for practicing cooperative play. Lead by example when moments need to be structured, “S can throw the ball to J and then he can throw it to me, then it’s S’s turn again”. We also try our best to walk with other kids outside when the weather is nice and we aren’t feeling COVID anxious.
Bonus! Make up a song about your home address (yeah, this is a real Kindergarten standard) and teach your kids your phone number.
The most important thing you can do to keep your kids academically ready for kindergarten? Read. Read, read, read! Every day, multiple times a day. Read them books, let them read you familiar books that they vaguely know the plot of. Read EVERYTHING!