The first year of school year is an exciting time, but the nature of kindergarten has changed a lot since today’s parents attended. In order to assist their child to get the most out of kindergarten, parents should keep some important concepts in mind.
A focus on academics
Children in kindergarten still have the opportunity to mold clay and finger-paint, but they are also exposed to much more academic material than was true 20 or 25 years ago. Kindergarteners are now expected to master the letter sounds and begin reading simple words. They will also begin to write short sentences and perform elementary math operations. Parents need to be ready for the inevitable homework that will be sent home to help support and enhance all these skills.
Many children need additional practice
In many cases, high-performing children in kindergarten are doing more than the assigned homework. They are reaching mastery levels sooner because of additional skill reinforcement provided by their parents. This is a good idea for all parents. One technique is to start with alphabet flash cards and later proceed to simple words for children to sound out. Having children write out the cards themselves will ;give them a sense of ownership over the activity.
Learning is more than paper-and-pencil
Skill reinforcement can also take a variety of “real world” forms. Parents can help children practice number skills, for example, by asking a child to set the table with four forks and four knives and then asking them how many utensils that is in all. Literally any chore or family activity can be transformed in this way if parents are on the lookout for “teachable” moments.
Peer relationships also matter
Children are able to get the most from kindergarten when they are happy at school. For most, this means having friends in class. Parents can help their children build friendships by having classmates over to play on a frequent basis. Getting to know fellow kindergarten parents is also important since it can mean that whole families form strong social bonds that will spill over into school.
Learning to follow directions
A final important skill for children to master during the kindergarten year is the ability to cooperate with the teacher and follow somewhat complex directions. Some parents unthinkingly disadvantage their kindergartener by giving a child only a single direction at a time. The teacher, however, may expect children to follow three directions in a row. Parents should therefore give multiple directions at times as well. This kind of practice will also help to build strong memory skills.
Work with the teacher
Staying in close contact with the school is also important. Parents should share their concerns with the kindergarten teacher and solicit specific input about how to support the school program. In most schools, parents are welcome to volunteer in the classroom; working parents can assist the teacher by doing preparatory tasks such as cutting out manipulatives in their spare time.
Many parents focus more on reading than math, which can be a tactical mistake as both subjects form the gateway to future learning. The web page linked is a place that parents can view for information about the key support strategy known as Response to Intervention for math.
Disclosure: I was compensated for this post.