Parenting In Focus: Kindergarten is not like it used to be

In the past, many of us sent our children to kindergarten assuming that’s where learning began. Now we know that is not the case.

Today, most children enter school knowing their letters and the sounds of the letters. Some even know how to read. Most have been in preschool for one or two years, sometimes more.

Others come to school having read few books, not knowing letters or sounds of letters. They are significantly behind before they begin! Many will catch up, and some will not.

If you want your child to be ready for school, there are things you need to be doing right now:

Read to your child regularly

Hopefully this can be done most days. This will help more than any other single thing you can do. Most children really enjoy reading with a parent.

Talk to your child a lot

This increases language skills, helps with reading, teaches him or her to pay attention and increases the bonds between you.

Listen to your child even more

This encourages the use of language skills and also increases the development of interpersonal skills with other children.

Pay attention to your child’s development

Check out and read books from the library on parenting. You will learn what he or she should be doing at their current stage, and you can help in many ways. If you think your child is behind, in any area, contact the school and find out if he or she is eligible for a developmental screening. The earlier you discover developmental problems, the more effective early intervention can be.

Be aware of screen time

See what your child is watching on television and doing on the computer. Parents need to know this. Violent material should be limited.

Encourage time spent on music, sports and art

Make art supplies handy for painting or drawing. Hang some of them up to show you are proud of the accomplishment(s). Take your child to some of the musical programs that happen around town. You can even help by putting on appropriate music to listen to while working.

If your boy or girl enjoys participating in sports, find out local ways you can encourage this interest. Try to encourage some participation in each activity.

Provide opportunities to learn everyday skills

Help your child learn skills such as how to use scissors, how to answer questions about the book you are reading together and how to interact with other children.

Look for learning opportunities you read about in the newspaper. Get a library card so he or she can find and check out books of interest. Maybe go to the wild animal park or seek out other special learning opportunities.

Laugh and have fun together

Figure out what your child enjoys and enjoy your child. Make sure you have fun times together.

Providing these experiences is especially important if your child is not in a preschool. Not only will your involvement help your child get ready for school, but your involvement will also encourage him or her to succeed at other future tasks as well.

Cynthia Martin is the founder of the First Teacher program and former executive director of Parenting Matters Foundation, which published newsletters for parents, caregivers and grandparents.