Read with your child

Read with your child at least 20 minutes per day. And, before the first day of kindergarten, talk with your child about what to expect. 

The holidays are behind us, but if you have a preschooler who will be entering kindergarten next school year, it’s not too early to start getting them ready. In fact, many schools hold their kindergarten registration events beginning this month.

First Things First (FTF), Arizona’s early childhood organization, has many suggestions on what families can do at home to prepare their child to be successful on the first day of kindergarten. The FTF Kindergarten Readiness page, found at https://www.firstthingsfirst.org/resources/kindergarten-readiness/, is a resource for parents and caregivers to help children be prepared for school success.

Superintendent Jodi Gunning tells parents from the Litchfield Elementary School District they can help their children thrive in kindergarten and beyond by fostering deep emotional connections helping little ones feel safe and loved.

“Once children are confident about themselves and their new environment, they will be able to access their brilliance and really start blossoming,” she said. “The single most important thing parents can do to prepare their child for kindergarten is foster a strong sense of confidence and safety in their young learner. Strong connections give children the confidence to master new tasks and embrace the challenges that come with starting school.”

Below are some tips from First Things First to help your preschooler have a fun, easy transition to kindergarten:

•  Read with your child at least 20 minutes per day. Try books with repeating words; involve activities like counting, identifying colors, objects or letters; or, are about things your child likes. Ask questions like, “What do you think happens next?”    

• Talk with your child everywhere – at home, in the car, at the store. Make up stories or songs about your outings.

• Writing begins with scribbling. Give your child safe writing tools to play with, like crayons, chalk or markers and blank paper.  Ask your child to tell you about their drawings.

• Teach your child how to use the bathroom by themselves, to wash their hands after going to the bathroom and before eating, to blow their nose and sneeze into their elbow.

Before the first day, talk with your child about what to expect during the school day and types of after-school activities they may be involved in. The more details kids know, the less anxious they will feel. 

Rehearse for the big day with test-runs of the new routine, which will include:

• Choosing what to wear the night before.

• Waking up early to have plenty of time to get ready.

• Eating a healthy breakfast.

• Walking to the bus stop and talking about boarding and where to sit.

• Practicing how to open parts of lunch, whether it’s a carton of milk or a small bag of carrots. Remind them teachers or lunch staff can help if needed.

Even if you don’t have kindergarteners this year, it’s never too early to start helping kids prepare. Children who have positive early childhood experiences tend to score higher on school readiness assessments and are more likely to do well in school and graduate. 

By turning everyday moments into learning moments, we can send our young kids to school with the skills and confidence helping them succeed in kindergarten.

“Sometimes parents are hyper-focused on academic and physical achievement,” Gunning said. “We know now our greatest investment is in the social-emotional success of children. We can help students prepare for kindergarten by helping them feel safe and loved so they can access their brilliance at school and in life.”