Many parents wonder how to help their child make a successful (and happy!) transition to kindergarten, and sometimes worry that they don’t know what exactly to do. Here are 5 things that we, at Annette’s Preschool, recommend to make the transition a success!
1. Recognize the stages of child development
Its important Pre-K parents understand the rhythm of child development in the PreK years and set expectations accordingly. A typical conversation we may have with one of our pre-K parents may start like this. “I’m just not sure my son is ready for kindergarten. He’s become so unpredictable and moody – he’s so different than he was 6 months ago – he seems to be regressing.” That parent is correct. After all, as the child’s first teacher, he or she knows their child the best. Children may temporarily regroup before launching into the next challenge using previously mastered skills. We stress in our responses to parents that, during the preschool years, most typically developing 3-5 year olds spiral through periods of equilibrium and disequilibrium. Typically, when children reach their whole year birthday, they will exhibit “equilibrium” behaviors that are more calm, engaging, receptive, eager and happy. And on the half-year marks, may exhibit more disequilibrium characterized by discontent, possible outbursts, tall tales, and unpredictability. Being aware that these cycles are normal can help them better understand their child’s development in the context of their family culture, individual interests, approaches to learning and temperament, will ease anxiety about typical developmental changes.
2. “One, Two, Three…vs…Please play with me.”
Parents often place more weight on academic readiness skills in their Kindergarten bound child (such as reading, writing and counting) than do Kindergarten teachers. At the recent meeting of over 50 CSSU Early Learning Partner preschools, several Kindergarten teachers were invited to share a brief “day in the life” of a Kindergartener. Their message? That strong social skills, emotional regulation and self-help skills are considered among the most significant hallmarks of a child’s successful Kindergarten transition. For children who have learned how to verbally express strong emotions and begin to find solutions to solve disagreements with peers (before seeking out a teacher), the transition to Kindergarten tends to go more smoothly. Why? Because these skills, honed through play scenarios practiced at school and at home, build the foundation of social and emotional competence that underlie positive learning experiences.
3. “First, Love Thyself.”
A child who can establish a happy relationship with himself (i.e., “I like myself”), his teachers (i.e., “I am a good learner and my teacher thinks so too”), and peers (i.e., “I have friends and am a part of my community”) will be an engaged and happy student. Encourage your child’s passions wherever you find them, and give them a chance to share them. Your child’s passions may not be the same things he or she is always good at. That’s OK! At Annette’s Preschool, we focus on supporting each child’s creativity and play interests to reveal the topics which create a path for the curriculum. From superheroes to ramps, to yoga, to tools and animal habitats, children’s interests provide hands-on opportunities to explore and master new tasks and problems, develop social skills, self-regulation and self-reliance.
4. Balance the “here and now” with preparation for the Fall
Child are concrete thinkers and typically do not have a solid concept of the passage of time. Discussions about “getting ready for Kindergarten” can lead a young child to believe that Kindergarten entry is imminent, when that may not be so. Preparatory activities that are staggered over time help children to “get to know about Kindergarten” and include school visits for children to see the teachers, classroom, lunchroom, buses and playground, or even home visits to meet with children in their family setting. Community “play days” help children to become more familiar with what to expect at the "big school” and are a chance to meet other children who will join them in the fall. Meetings between principals and directors of local area preschools to offer informational sessions with families in the comfort of their early care and education program help parents anticipate next steps. For example, here at Annette’s Preschool, our pre-K teachers intentionally focus on the current classroom activities and interests and balance discussions about children’s visits to Kindergarten in terms of successful experiences of change that have occurred at preschool and at home.
5. “It takes a Village…”
Our children do not go to Kindergarten alone, and they benefit most by having Kindergarten-ready communities to support their learning success. The family, the school and the community play essential roles by providing high quality early education experiences, understanding child development, and the need for hands-on learning through play in the early years, birth through age eight.
Supporting young children through these 5 essential approaches will increase the enthusiasm and love of learning in Kindergarten and for the rest of the elementary years to come!