The Back-to-School displays have been up for a while now. It seems like we had just finished school, and in a blink of an eye, Target was bringing out the giant bins of crayons, markers, and glue sticks. Now don’t get me wrong, I LOVE getting new school supplies and the smell of a brand new box of crayons, but we still have about a month left before most of us (at least in Michigan) head back to school.
As parents, we want our kids to be prepared for school, so we buy everything on the school supply list, make sure they have the perfect first-day outfit, and take a million pictures with the perfect chalkboard sign. However, there are other things parents can do NOW, to help prepare their future kindergartners for the first day of school.
1. Read EVERY day.
Children need to hear fluent readers on a regular basis. You may not realize it, but you are expanding their vocabulary with every page you read. They are also subconsciously learning sentence structure. Modeling how to navigate the book is important. Point out the front of the book, the capital letters in the title, and have them follow your finger as you read left to right. Pattern books are great if your little reader is starting to notice high-frequency sight words. Ask your local librarian for some suggestions. Put books in easily accessible places; bathroom, bedroom, kitchen table, and car are a few areas we keep them in our house. Finally, it is important for your little one to see you reading-whether it’s magazines or novels, when parents make literacy a priority, their children notice.
2. Point out colors and shapes.
Even though there are flash cards that teach these, finding them in “nature” can make a walk to the park or a trip to the grocery store more fun! Make it like a scavenger hunt- “Today we are looking for an orange circle!”
3. Counting and number recognition.
Practice one to one correspondence by placing many little objects in front of your future kindergartner. (Bingo chips or pennies work really well.) Have them touch each counter as they count aloud. Write down the numerals for them to recognize and have them trace over your writing. Point out numbers in books, on signs, and even on the TV. Use dice or dominoes to teach number sense. Roll the die or flip a domino, have your child determine which one is bigger. If they are more advanced, have them count or add both dice/dominoes together.
4. Fine motor skills.
Let them practice cutting. As much as this scared me as a parent, as an educator, I know it’s a necessity. There are actual “cutting” workbooks, but there is no reason to spend the money. Draw lines or shapes on scrap paper and have them use their dominant hand (if they have one)to cut on the line. Be prepared to correct the scissor grip and offer the use of the other hand if a dominant one is not obvious. Stringing beads or putting spaghetti through a straw are other great exercises to do with your child to improve fine motor skills.
5. Use screen time wisely.
Take advantage of educational television shows and apps. So many of the PBS shows are age appropriate and reinforce early learning skills. Websites like abcmouse, abcya and starfall are also great resources.