Preschool has long been the traditional pipeline into elementary school. For many families, COVID-19 created a scenario in which children missed out on preschool altogether and entered directly into kindergarten. In Texas, preschool is not mandatory, which begs the question—is preschool even necessary or can parents just take the pass?
This is revealing my age a bit, but I remember my kindergarten year being mostly about playing with playdough and blocks. For better or worse, today’s kindergarten experience is more like the first grade of years ago. Now the preference is for children to enter with at least some academic skills, and they will often leave kindergarten reading or very close to doing so. In addition, the expectation is that children will also be proficient in the softer skills of taking turns, sharing, attending to the teacher, waiting in line patiently, sitting quietly for story time, and more.
I am an educator by background and continue to be very involved in my children’s schools and with school-related topics in general. Although anecdotal, I have repeatedly heard from teachers, administrators, and other educational partners that behavior and academic readiness were greatly affected by COVID-19. Kindergarten was particularly hard hit. Many of the children entering school for the first time were not able to attend preschool and teachers found themselves correcting behaviors rather than being able to address academics.
So what should an Incoming Kindergartner be able to do?
When entering kindergarten, children should be able to:
- Recognize most or all capital letters
- Recognize many of the lowercase letters
- Recognize most or all numbers 1-10
- Be able to write their own name
- Recognize most or all basic colors
- Stand in a line
- Ask the teacher for help
- Wait patiently for a turn
- Attend to own bathroom needs
- Listen respectfully to the teacher
- Follow directions
- Sit quietly during circle or story time
- Separate from parents with minimal distress
- Use a proper grip when writing
It is possible to both pass on preschool and help prepare your child for kindergarten, it will just take some intentionality on your part. Here is a list of resources and ways you can help your child grow both academically and socially in preparation for entering the classroom:
Other Ways to Get that
Public library – The library is a treasure trove of resources! Reading with your child helps promote early literacy by developing vocabulary and comprehension, skills that will help your child make sense of printed words when she starts reading.
Most libraries also offer scheduled story times where a librarian will read to groups of children. Story times expose your child to the same literacy concepts as when you read but have the added benefit of helping your child build her tolerance for sitting still and attending to an adult.
Libraries also offer CDs and DVDs that can promote reading readiness. For example, your child can look at a book while listening to the story on CD, turning the pages when the narrator indicates. My twins particularly enjoyed a series of phonics DVDs at our local library. They loved the engaging characters and fun plots and I loved that they learned all of the letter sounds without a fuss.
Playgroups and playdates – Getting your child together with playmates is fun, but it also helps them work on their social skills, such as taking turns, sharing, cooperating, using kind words, and keeping their hands to themselves.
Public television – Television often gets a bad rap and for good reason. American children spend significantly more time parked in front of the screen than recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. There is some high quality children’s programming, however, that introduces letters, letter sounds, numbers, shapes and colors. When viewed in moderation, these programs can be a great way to help prepare your child for kindergarten. For example, PBS offers shows like “Word World” and “Super Why” for literacy concepts and “Peg + Cat” and “Odd Squad” for math skills development.
Group classes – Children can benefit from being exposed to a number of activities, allowing them to identify what they are or aren’t interested in. Classes like gym, dance, art, music, or soccer not only offer your child a chance to do something she enjoys, but they also provide great opportunities for her to practice many of the soft skills that she’ll need in kindergarten, like listening to the teacher and taking turns.
Online learning sites – There are a plethora of online educational sites that can help your little one learn her letters, colors, numbers, shapes, and other early academic concepts. Some programs charge a fee, while others are available at no cost. Read about and test several out yourself to select the best one for your child.
You! – Don’t underestimate yourself; you can be your child’s best teacher! Determine which concepts you are trying to cover and weave them into your time together. You can talk about colors while playing with sidewalk chalk or finger painting. Baking cookies together gives you a chance to count, or to do simple math when a few of those cookies disappear! Choose a letter a week and introduce its shape and sound(s) while looking for items around the house that begin with that sound. The possibilities are endless!
If keeping your child at home rather than sending her to preschool is best for your family, it doesn’t mean that she will enter kindergarten behind her peers academically and socially. With some effort on your part to build her language, math, and social skills your child will not only be able to keep up with her peers, she’ll be ready to soar!
Alison Bogle is a writer living in Austin with her husband and three children. A former fourth grade teacher, she now enjoys writing about children and education. You can also catch her talking about articles from Austin Family magazine each Thursday morning on FOX Good Day Austin.