Parents with children entering kindergarten this month may already be prepped for the first day of school, but the milestone can still be stressful. Deborah Dixon, MS, CCC-SLP, director of school services for the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), says to relax — most children will do just fine with this transition. However, Dixon notes that continued preparation (in the form of real-life experiences as opposed to formal workbooks or apps) can go a long way. With current research showing kindergarten readiness is tied to long-term academic success, some educators have concerns that kids’ skills are lacking because of too much time on tech devices in formative years. But before you rip that iPad out of your child’s hands, take a closer look. Is your child ready for school? Read on if you’re on the fence.
4 READINESS TIPS
Communication skills — sharing one’s thoughts, wants and needs as well as understanding the thoughts, wants and needs of others.
Social skills — successfully interacting and sharing experiences with peers as well as adults. This involves turn taking, initiating and concluding conversations, and using appropriate gestures, facial expressions and intonations, among other things.
Independence and self-regulation — being able to complete age-appropriate tasks (using the bathroom, washing hands, dressing) without assistance as well as being able to control one’s emotions and behaviors.
Problem solving, collaboration, following directions — knowing how to play with other children, work with other children and teachers, and solve the hundreds of small problems that may come up every day.
4 INDEPENDENCE ESSENTIALS
Let your child practice it in steps. For the first few days, teach him to do the X and go through the first loop (the easy part). Do this over and over. Let him tie everything (cushions on chairs, your shoes, a bow on a present). Yes, he will get frustrated. Your job is to stay calm and encourage him. It will take about a week. Remember that when you want to jump in and tie it for him in a rush, or you see him struggling, that you need to STOP doing that for him.
OPEN A JUICE BOX
Even if you don’t send them with your child, parties and in-school celebrations will often include juice boxes. Teach him how to open one step-by-step: Remove the straw, open it, insert it into the juice box, drink it, throw it all away (do not wait for the teacher to come by and get it).
GETTING WHAT HE NEEDS
You want your child to take responsibility for himself. Think about if he breaks his pencil in class. Will he know that he needs to raise his hand to get another one? Or will he sit there, doing nothing, because he didn’t know that he needs to take care of himself? A child needs to learn that he needs to get up, get in line and take care of his needs. No one is going to do it for him. Remember, you’re raising him to be a responsible adult.
KNOW THE BASICS
Does your child know his first and last name, phone number, address? Don’t send him out “into the world” without this information. If you’re not sure he will remember, write it down and slip the paper in his shoe ... just in case he forgets.
Should You Redshirt Your Child?
Delaying your child’s start at the PreK or kindergarten level — known as academic redshirting — is on the rise as parents grapple with the must-be-5-by-August-15 cut-off date that forces them to decide whether they want their children to be among the oldest in their class or the youngest. But whether your child enters kindergarten as a young 5-year-old or older 5-year-old or young 6-year-old, a vast majority of the kids are all going to be reading at the same level by third grade. Before you make a concrete decision about whether to redshirt your child, ask yourself these questions:
• Why would you want to hold your child back for one more year? What makes you feel he isn’t ready right now?
• Has your child been in preschool? If so, what was his experience like? Did he do well there?
• Will your child be able to meet the expectations of the particular kindergarten program you want him to attend?
• Do you feel your child needs extra time to build social skills?
• If you’re going to redshirt your child, how do you plan to use the additional year to prepare him for kindergarten the following school year?