As the summer draws to a close, our thoughts naturally turn to school. And for many nannies, this means sending off a young one to Kindergarten. Kindergarten was traditionally the first school experience for 5 and 6 year olds, but these days most of our charges have already been in Preschool or in Pre- K classrooms and know what school is all about.
So what is our role in “getting ready” for Kindergarten?
Instead of focusing on just getting ready for Kindergarten, think of preparing a child for the experience of being part of a new community. These skills are things that a child needs for life, not just for school. A child spends enough time in school, and we should think more broadly about what skills will serve them best beyond just the classroom.
So what should we be thinking about when helping to prepare our child?
Think about the life skills that will help your child thrive in his or her new community. Here are a few crucial ones, and some advice on how to help engage your child in developing them:
1. Independence/Self Help Skills
2. Language Skills
3. Relationship skills
4. Basic Fine and Gross Motor Skills
5. Curiosity and Love of Learning
Independence/Self Help Skills
Most Kindergarten teachers will say these are crucial skills to have! Even if your child is not yet able to do everything by him or herself, it helps if they are excited about trying!
- Activities for rising kindergarteners that help build independence and self help skills include: playing pretend with dolls, putting on own shoes and boots, helping out in the kitchen, and performing simple responsibilities around the house such as: bringing in the mail, putting away silverware, or cleaning up their toys.
Your child will now be in a classroom where they are really expected to listen to and follow directions. They will not only need to be able to enunciate clearly, but they will also be asked to use an ever widening vocabulary to communicate more specifically than before. Kids learn new words at an astonishing rate at this age – 5 or 6 words a day! It is essential to make sure that they are exposed to a wide variety of words.
- Activities for your child that will help him or her to develop language skills include: reading, asking him or her multiple complex questions, playing telephone (or, in this day and age, SKYPE), engaging in lots of rhyming and singing, using puppets or doll houses together, and learning games like Mother May I, 20 Questions, or Simon Says.
One of the more challenging aspects of being in ANY community is navigating the complex tangle of relationships that will inevitably form. Your kindergartener will have to be able to hold conversations, make friends and ask for help. They will need to be able to make a strong connection to their teacher by developing empathy and emotional vocabulary.
- Activities that help with these skills include: cooperative activities and team builders, emotion charts, practice reading faces for emotional cues, role playing imaginative play, a “me” book or projects about themselves, cooking or other following direction activities.
There are some practical things that your child should be prepared to tackle. By mentioning these skills, I in no way am suggesting they should be proficient, but instead they should be on the pathway. They will need to be working on scissors, holding a pencil or crayon, crossing their midline, awareness of right and left side of the body, balance, and spatial awareness/orientation.
- Activities for your child that can help with these skills include: practicing clothespins, stringing beads, making mosaics, squirting spray bottles, drawing with sidewalk chalk, using tongs, toying with tweezers, kneading play dough, gardening, walking on low beams or tape lines, kicking and throwing a ball, jumping hopscotch, trying obstacle courses, practicing crab walks and donkey kicks, and of course playing follow the leader.
Curiosity and Love of Learning
Kids that like to learn and see it as fun are more successful in the long run. The attitude with which they approach being in the classroom makes a huge difference, both during and after Kindergarten. Can they see the connections between their everyday life and more abstract concepts that they are learning about in school? If not then they will not engage and learning at school will be much tougher for them.
- Activities that will help your child develop his or her sense of curiosity and love of learning include: visiting museums and other interesting places, sensory play, science projects, making choices based on interests, gardening, asking lots of questions and sharing your own love of learning.
Try some of the suggested activities above each day until the first day of school to help your child start the school year off right. Remember to follow their interests so they enjoy learning and look forward to school. If you can, plan a play date to practice some of these skills while also offering a social experience at the same time. Check out some other tips about being ready for the first day of school for both kids and parents.
Sue Downey, of Nannypalooza, has been a nanny for more than 20 years. She currently has fun everyday with a 3 year old and a newborn in Philadelphia, PA.