You are your child’s first teacher. Supporting your child as they begin school will help them be successful. Here are some things you can do at home to get your child ready for kindergarten.
Have a positive, enthusiastic attitude
Model a positive attitude about both starting kindergarten and learning in general. Talk to your child about how much they will learn and the new people they will meet. When your child asks you questions about the world, take time to answer them — and to ask your own questions.
Look for opportunities for your child to play with other kids
Free play in small and large groups is an important learning and development experience for your child. It helps them learn important social skills. A lot of what makes kindergarten a tough transition is that kids suddenly find themselves in a big group all day long. The more social skills kids have, the easier it will be for them to concentrate on learning.
Create a consistent routine at home
Following a consistent routine — and pointing out parts of the routine to your child — helps your child know what to expect and when. This will help your child transition to the school routine. This means going to bed and waking up at the same time every day and eating meals at roughly the same time each day. It can also mean learning to follow steps, like first you get dressed, then you eat breakfast, then you brush your teeth. (Then add learning time into your routine — reading at bedtime, songs on car rides, counting grapes at snack time.)
Give your child age-appropriate chores
Also, hold your child accountable for doing their chores. These types of activities will automatically transfer over into the classroom and help your child feel successful and comfortable. What can kids do at this age? Every child is different, but most kids at this age can learn to set the table, feed animals, sort and fold laundry, and learn to tidy and dust.
Help your child identify their feelings and talk about them
Ask your child to imagine how others feel. Teach your child that all feelings are OK, but not all actions are OK. For instance, you may feel upset, but it’s not OK to hit someone. Talking about feelings will help your child cope when they are dealing with a strange, sometimes overwhelming new environment.
Help your child find ways to calm down when they get frustrated
Take a few deep breaths with your child the next time they are frustrated. When your child is calm, share how you deal with being frustrated. Ask your child to imagine in their mind what situation makes them feel calm — hugging their dog, being with their grandma, holding their favorite toy — then remind them they can bring that image anywhere to calm themselves down.
Be sure your child goes to bed early enough
Kindergartners need about 10 hours of sleep every night. It’s not unusual for kindergartners to be extremely tired in the first months of kindergarten, so you may have to move bedtime up even earlier than normal.
Help your child practice skills
Skills such as washing their hands, blowing their nose, and tying their shoes are important steps in building your child’s independence. Given bigger class sizes and academic expectations, most teachers have limited ability to help with life skills like going to the bathroom and putting on shoes. Helping your child learn to do these tasks by themselves will reduce their stress at school.
Keep pencils, crayons, and paper on hand
Store these fun tools where your child can get to them easily so that they are comfortable using them to draw and express themselves. A lot of learning in kindergarten is about drawing and writing on paper; the more your child practices this, the better.
Build a strong foundation in your child’s home language
You build this foundation by reading, singing, telling stories, and having meaningful conversations with your child. This will help your child learn to speak, communicate, and become a lifelong learner.
Help your child learn math skills by playing games
Play games in your family’s native language or practice playing simple games in English. The point is to play games, which builds verbal and nonverbal communication skills, as well as reading, math, and logic skills, depending on the game. Look for shapes at home (the TV is a rectangle, a mirror may be a square, pennies are circle, etc.). While folding laundry, talk about sorting types of clothes, and matching socks by size and color. Count chairs and plates when setting the table.