It is an exciting time when a child is close to going to kindergarten in the coming year. We all want our children to be ready. That takes some concentrated effort.
Being ready for school has many components. Probably the most important single thing each parent can do to help their child be ready is to read together. This is one readiness skill that you can do rather easily and yet it is an incredibly important task. Each day you should read together for 20 minutes. Any child’s book will do.
Take your little one to the library and check out several of the wonderful books for your child that you find. If you don’t know the ones to read, ask the librarian for help. Almost any book will do. The book can have a few words or many words. The pictures will give you a clue about the reading level.
But in addition to reading daily with your child, there are a number of other tasks that will help him be ready. These skills begin with areas your child should know about themselves and the world around them. Just try some of the following and you will see your child getting ready before your eyes.
• In addition to reading with your child daily, talk together about what you have read.
• Attend story times at First Teacher or at the library.
• Sing rhyming songs together.
• Put your child’s name on clothing and toys to help teach him or her about their name in print.
• Encourage your child to write his or her name. Be excited about it when she tries.
• Help your child learn basic colors by naming objects like “green trees,” “red apples,” or “blue shirts.” Ask him about the color of different objects.
• Give your child games that use counting. Let her scribble, draw, write, and cut and paste whenever. Use numbers with her on a regular basis. Count out the raisins or the jelly beans until she can count them for you.
• Sing the alphabet song with your child and have toys that will help him begin to recognize letters.
• Take your child with you on errands to the store, the post office, and pet shop. Talk together about all the things you hear and see during the day.
• Choose child care carefully to introduce your child to interesting and educational planned fun.
This isn’t all you can and should be doing to have your child ready for school. We will be talking about other things that will help him have a real head start.
One other item to discuss as a beginning place is your child’s vocabulary. This is an important tool that parents also lay the foundation for their child. We know that children who begin school with a vocabulary of about 1,000 words rarely catch up with those children who know 5,000 words. Reading stories together helps your child expand her vocabulary. Your conversations and the stories you read together form the basis for your child’s vocabulary.
Talk together a lot. Talk about the road construction. Talk about the new building going in down the street. Talk about the weather. Talk about the dog, the birds, the cows, and any animals you see as you drive together. I know that these things don’t sound like they will increase a child’s vocabulary but they do.
You didn’t know it but you really are your child’s first teacher. You are also probably your child’s most important teacher. You have your child with you more each day that he will be in school or with anyone else. Look for ways to teach. Whether it is how to tie shoes or to sharpen pencils or pour milk these are all lessons in life. Keep up the important work.
Cynthia Martin is the founder of the First Teacher program and former executive director of Parenting Matters Foundation, which publishes newsletters for parents, caregivers and grandparents. To reach current First Teacher Executive Director Nicole Brewer, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 360-681-2250.