Kindergarten, Here We Come! What Kids Need to Be Ready
There she goes, off to “big kid school,” with a new backpack and bevy of school supplies. Many are the moms and dads who, bursting with pride and trepidation, shed a few tears when the first day of kindergarten comes.
Tommie Greene knows how big this transition can be for children and for families. A 2015 KinderCare Education Early Childhood Educator Award winner, Greene has spent some 10 years preparing the four- and five-year-olds in her Pre-K class for the change. When the time comes, every single one of her students at Francisco Drive KinderCare in El Dorado Hills, California, is ready—socially , emotionally, and yes, academically.
“Because of changes to public schools across the country, preschool is more critical then ever,” Greene says. “Classes are larger than when I went to school in the 1970s, and children are expected to know more by the end of kindergarten than they used to.” Families, too, have a role to play in ensuring their kids can be successful.
We asked Greene to share some of her wisdom that helps kids head off to kindergarten prepped and ready.
1. At this age, learning must be super-duper fun.
There’s an adage that goes, What we learn with joy we never forget. More important than what a child knows is her attitude toward learning. “These children are still so young, and you want to keep learning joyful and fun—even playful,” says Greene.
2. Help them feel positive about their abilities (no matter their abilities).
Junie may just be starting to scribble, while Dylan may be writing his name: Everyone works differently and that’s okay. “I always tell parents to give each child the space and time he needs to show them what he knows. The learning will come, at its own pace and in its own way,” Greene says. “The most important thing a parent can give a young learner getting ready to enter school is a feeling of positivity about themselves and school.” If your child still doesn’t know how to write the whole alphabet, don’t worry. Focus on what she can do, and get excited about where she is her learning process.
3. Give plenty of praise—and keep the praise authentic.
“My motto in class is Do your personal best,” says Greene. “When you see work your child has done, give meaningful praise, so instead of a chorus of Good job, try to take note of something she did different. You might say, I see you made a whole series of circles. Tell me more about your idea here. That way, you’re also inviting a conversation about her ideas.”
4. Play “school.”
“We play school a lot, so my children can get used to the idea of school—and get excited about it,” Greene says. During this imaginative play period, each child has a desk, pencil box, and cubby where each child’s things go. “Parents can do the same thing at home, by talking about what to expect at elementary school, what the rules are, and how we listen. But the important thing is to keep the focus on how exciting kindergarten is going to be.”
5. Social and emotional skills are just as critical as the alphabet.
Tommie’s prekindergarten class has 12 students, but in kindergarten, students can number 25 or more. Children have to learn to listen, stand in line, raise their hand before talking, and not move around the classroom all day. That can be tough for many children! Helping children learn empathy, turn-taking, and teamwork will help them be successful. Preschool is more important than ever. “Today, I believe it’s a necessary start,” Greene says.