Thursday, December 17, 2009

Kindergarten Time

Knowing when your child is ready-

It's the time of year when parents are registering their little ones for the start of next years school term. So how do you know when your little one is ready for kindergarten? What are the things you should look for. What does your child need to know before that first day of school? Hopefully we can provide some answers here.

Is my child old enough to start kindergarten? What are cut-off dates? Cut-off dates are deadlines many schools use to determine who can enter the next kindergarten class. Your child must reach the age of 5 by the cutoff date, which is usually September 1 or December 1 in most school districts, though some states have cutoffs as early as June or no deadline at all. Many schools still use these dates to determine who is ready for school, but research shows that your child's chronological age isn't the best way to decide whether he or she has what it takes to be a successful kindergartner. Kindergarten "readiness" is the real issue. In recent years, early childhood educators have begun to focus on a child's physical, social, and cognitive development rather than age.
How do you know when your child is ready? What indicators should you look for? If your child is in preschool, talk to the teacher. She probably has a good sense of his development and how he compares with other children who would be at his grade level. If your child is not in preschool or you just want another opinion, check with your pediatrician. He or she will know about your child's physical development and can offer helpful feedback as to whether your child is ready. Other readiness indicators include...

1. It is not necessary for your child to know how to write all the letters of the
alphabet before starting kindergarten. That is what he or she will learn in kindergarten.
Many teachers actually prefer to begin teaching writing at school, though being able to
write their name is a good skill to have before that first day.

2. Your child should be able to sing the alphabet song, and recognize most letters.
Sing the alphabet song in the car, or the tub. When you are out running errands, look
for letters together on street signs.

3. Your child should be able to recognize his or her own name. Write his or her name
on index cards and tape them in various locations - on the bedroom door, on a
favorite chair, on the toy box. Talk about his or her name - what letter does it start with?
How many letters are in it? What letter does it end with?

What skill should my child have mastered before venturing off for that first day of school? What do we need to work on? Children who enter school with a range of skills and knowledge tend to be more successful in school. While mastery of any or all of the skills identified is not required for admission to kindergarten, these indicators will help children enter kindergarten with confidence. This checklist should help.

1. Listens to stories without interrupting
2. Recognizes rhyming sounds
3. Pays attention for short periods of time to adult-directed tasks
4. Understands actions have both causes and effects
5. Shows understanding of general times of day
6. Cuts with scissors
7. Traces basic shapes
8. Begins to share with others
9. Starts to follow rules
10. Is able to recognize authority
11. Manages bathroom needs
12. Buttons shirts, pants, coats, and zips up zippers
13. Begins to control oneself
14. Separates from parents without being upset
15. Speaks understandably
16. Talks in complete sentences of five to six words
17. Looks at pictures and then tells stories
18. Identifies rhyming words
19. Identifies the beginning sound of some words
20. Identifies some alphabet letters
21. Recognizes some common sight words like "stop"
22. Sorts similar objects by color, size, and shape
23. Recognizes groups of one, two, three, four, and five objects
24. Counts to at least ten
25. Bounces a ball

If your child has acquired most of the skills on this checklist and will be at least five years old at the start of the summer before he or she starts kindergarten, he or she is probably ready for kindergarten. Keep in mind that young children learn so quickly, that they can master a new skill from one day to the next. What he or she cannot do today, they may well be able to do next week. What teachers want to see on the first day of school are children who are healthy, mature, capable, and eager to learn.

What can you do to help make kindergarten easier for my child and his or her teacher? There are a few simple ideas that can make a big difference.

1. Kindergartners do not usually have the developmental skills necessary to tie their own shoes, so whenever possible buy shoes with velcro fasteners.

2. Your child should be able to put on his or her own coat. Practice at home until your child can handle doing this his or herself. With a large class to direct, the teacher cannot dress every child.

3. Snaps, buttons and zips can be hard for little fingers to manage. Elastic waistbands are much easier.

4. Much of kindergarten work is messy or active play - dress your child
appropriately. Washable, comfortable clothing is best.

Kindergarten is a significant step on the path of education. A little consideration and planning on your part can make this step a rewarding and successful time for your child. Above all, parents should trust their own instincts regarding their children's readiness for kindergarten. If a parent has any uncertainty, talking to the child's pediatrician or preschool teachers might provide some added insight, or confirmation of the parent's opinion. Remember also, decisions are not irrevocable or life-threatening, if there are problems accommodations can usually be made.

I hope you and your child have a great time with this new adventure.

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