By Karen Golembeski, M.ED
As the new school year begins, parents and teachers of preschoolers have much to think about. Research in recent years has highlighted the importance of early education, and we all want the best for the children we care about. Parents and teachers of four-year-olds might not realize, however, that this is also the perfect time to begin thinking about kindergarten.
Many parents and teachers do not start thinking about preparing for the transition to kindergarten until a month or two just before kindergarten begins, because they may not be aware that successful transition to kindergarten is a process that begins the year before. Whether your child is in preschool, daycare or at home, the transition from early education programs to kindergarten can be a stressful time for both parents and educators. It is important to have tools and resources that can inform practice and guide children and families through the process.
Through community building and early recognition and response to children’s individual learning needs throughout the pre-kindergarten year, parents and educators can provide for the smooth flow of information about specific children from home and/or early learning programs to kindergarten teachers.
Starting early to prepare for kindergarten does not mean learning kindergarten skills in preschool, but rather, it involves making sure children have preschool skills such as being able to retell a simple story and being able to recognize the letters in their name when they enter kindergarten. If they have these skills they are more likely to be able to start the following year strong.
The year before kindergarten is the time to learn important skills, such as tracing the shapes of letters and numbers on paper, following simple instructions, recognizing the title of a book, and matching rhyming sounds. All of these skills are important for future school success, because together they form a foundation of strong prereading and prewriting skills necessary for future work with letters and sounds in kindergarten.
Getting ready for kindergarten involves more than just learning the ABCs. Along with juggling learning letters, sounds, numbers, and rhymes, new social experiences like taking turns and going to school for an entire day need to be considered as well. For many children, kindergarten is their first experience in a formal school setting.
Tasks that may be second nature to older children, like properly holding a pencil and listening to a story with a group, are some of the vital skills kindergarteners will be expected to know when school begins. It is important for you to gradually expose children to these types of experiences during the year before kindergarten so your child will become familiar with them. Joining a play group, attending story hour at the local library, and encouraging interaction with new friends are great ways to introduce your child to new social experiences, which will help them do better in school both academically and socially.
An additional benefit of preparing early for kindergarten is learning more about what activities excite and frustrate your child. This is valuable information to share with kindergarten teachers; the more a kindergarten teacher knows about a child in the beginning of the year, the better it will be for the child as the year moves forward. Keeping a list of activities you have tried with your child and making note of skills your child has and has not mastered are great pieces of information to pass on to kindergarten teachers.
Getting ready for kindergarten is a process that starts long before kindergarten begins. By starting early and learning new skills along the way, your child will have a strong start to the exciting year of learning that lies ahead.
There are many free resources available on the internet and through early education organizations that provide ideas for introducing children to new experiences at home and in the community. Below are some helpful resources for parents, educators and day care providers. Check out our Transitioning to Kindergarten Toolkit for resources for administrators, pre-K teachers, child care providers, kindergarten teachers, and parents to enhance children’s transition to kindergarten.
- Early Childhood Research & Policy Briefs: Transition to Kindergarten
- Getting Ready
- Foundation for Early Learning
- Getting School Ready
- Enhancing the Transition to Kindergarten: Linking Children, Families, & Schools