Parenting In Focus: Planning for school

You may not have a child who is about to begin kindergarten, but it isn’t too early to begin to get a child ready. Too often parents begin to prepare their child for kindergarten a month or so before it begins. It is a big deal to enter kindergarten and there is a great deal you can do to make this a very successful time in your child’s life.

All the skills you have been teaching your little one are going to help him be ready. Starting early gives you plenty of time to fix any gaps.

What will the teacher expect my child to be able to do? A child entering kindergarten is usually able to walk, run, and climb. She should be able to hold and use a pencil, crayons, and scissors. She should talk well enough for others to understand what she is saying and know that words can be written as well as spoken.

Help her see and hear how objects and sounds may be alike or different. She needs to practice talking with many people, so she learns to express her ideas.

Develop skills

Ask yourself, what group skills does my child need? Does your child have a good relationship with other children and adults? In kindergarten, he needs to be able to work alone but also with others. He can be totally used to working with others if you work with him on listening to a story in a group.

Remember to teach him to follow rules. Make sure he can remember and carry out two or three directions.

Be sure to practice taking turns, respecting others’ property, and sharing. Don’t forget to teach your little one about going to the toilet and washing his hands. Encourage him to always finish his work. If your child doesn’t learn the social-emotional skills he needs to function in group situations, by the time he begins kindergarten he is more likely to be at risk for school failure and even to having behavioral problems that can follow him throughout his adult life.

What knowledge and experience will help prepare my child for kindergarten? Help her learn about the world around her. Take her on interesting trips to the library or grocery store, on a bus ride or to a museum or park and talk with her about what she sees. Encourage her curiosity and help her find answers to her questions.

Teach her the names of colors and shapes. Make sure she knows her full name. Help her learn to read her name and to recognize the letters in it. Everyone should be proud of their name. She needs to learn how to get to school and back before school begins (see

These essential skills a child needs to begin kindergarten are all ones that help a child learn. Think of ways you can help your child be ready to begin his or her formal education. Then have fun as you create ways to teach him to really be ready for school.

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.