Tips for Stress-Free Transition to Kindergarten
Various studies have indicated that children who attend preschool have an advantage over children who do not. Due to the recession many families are struggling to provide a quality preschool education for their children, but it is possible for parents to replicate key kindergarten preparation methods at home. Here's a look at how parents of 3- and 4-year-olds can systematically develop the skillset and experiences that a quality preschool builds over time.
1. CREATE A SENSE OF PLACE
Create a preschool environment in your home. This may include a book nook or reading center, a construction center, a free play center and a child-size table and chairs.
2. STICK TO A PREDICTABLE ROUTINE
In elementary school, your child will be required to follow a routine, so it's a good idea to start now. Children like to know "what's next." Repetition creates habits that last a lifetime. Consistency is the key to success when it comes to implementing a routine.
3. EMPHASIZE CRITICAL THINKING SKILLS
It's important to build critical thinking in students from an early age. For example, to teach children about germination of a seed, you could actually plant a seed, observe it over time, and let the children record their observations. Give your child more challenging assignments, constantly increasing their reasoning powers. Children love a project-based approach because it is interactive and allows them to use their imaginations and problem-solving skills. Ask your child questions and resist giving the "right answer." Make learning more a process of discovery than a transfer of knowledge. When reading to a child, ask a lot of questions and build activities around the book to make it an interactive learning experience. For example, after reading A Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle, your child could create his or her own hungry caterpillar and discuss the story.
4. ENGINEER SOCIAL INTERACTIONS
If your child does not attend preschool, the most difficult adjustment to kindergarten may be the social interactions with peers. This transition can be made easier by inviting other children in your neighborhood or circle of friends to participate in your home-based preschool. If your child has not spent much time with another adult (other than you or your spouse), you may want to consider inviting friends to "guest teach" at your preschool. In elementary school, your child will be exposed to many teachers, so giving him or her the emotional intelligence required to skillfully communicate with people from different walks of life is crucial. If you can arrange for others to participate in your home preschool, invite the children to take turns, put their hand up and wait to be called on before they speak up, and learn to say "please, sorry and thank you."
5. TEACH INDEPENDENCE
It is very important to teach your child to clean up the preschool environment at the end of the"'school day." Kindergarten teachers will appreciate this simple but useful habit. Start with directions such as: "Jason, please pick up the blocks and put them back in the bin." Then add another step: "Jason, please pick up the blocks, and wash your hands before circle time." If you have a group environment, you can ask one child to tell what the weather is outside during circle time, and ask another to change the day of the week on the wall calendar. It helps to have a peer group, but it is not required. Just be consistent in your requests and eventually, tidying up will become a habit. Use a sticker chart to reward your preschooler for a job well done. Keep away from candy or ice cream even if those rewards work for your child.
Lynn Rasmussen is the owner of a local preschool, Kids 'R' Kids at Research Triangle Park and "mom" to eight children and one grandchild. Neesha Mirchandani is the parent of a rising kindergartener and part-time marketing director at Kids 'R' Kids RTP. You can reach them both at email@example.com or on Google+.