As we finish up one school year, it’s inevitable to start thinking about next year. This is especially true of parents of “soon-to-be” kindergartners.
As most know, kindergarten today isn’t the kindergarten of the past. For good or for bad, the requirements are much more academic and much more high stakes. I get asked all the time about what skills an incoming kindergartner should have.
I think there are 5 skills that can help a kindergartner be “on top of their game.”
Students need to know some letters before they get to kindergarten.
We simply can’t wait until kindergarten to acquire these skills. However, I am not advocating for “kill and drill” letter activities.
Play with letters. Let your child start with the letters in their name.
1. Letter Detective – Find the letters around your house and in your child’s community. If you are eating cereal, find the letters in their name on the box.
If you are in a restaurant, find the letters in the name on the menu. If you are driving down the road, find the letters in signs.
2. Magnet Letters – I kind of have an obsession with magnet letters. Putting magnets on the refrigerator really is a good idea. While you are making dinner, have them spell their name with magnet letters.
While you are packing lunchboxes, have them find the letter “h” for ham or “w” for water.
3. Compare Words – Using their name as the model, have them compare the letters in their name to another word. For example, using their name (Austin) and the cereal box (Puffed O’s), let them see there is a “s” and an “u” in common. Helping them see similarities is important.
Knowing numbers will also give your child a boost in kindergarten.
I don’t think you need to be solving equations, but naming and recognizing numbers to 10, counting to 10 (or a little higher), talking about numbers is definitely recommended.
1. Count, Count, Count – How many socks do we have? 1, 2. How many chairs are at the kitchen table? 1, 2, 3, 4.
How many steps is it to the bathtub? See what I mean? It doesn’t need to be hard, just practiced play.
2. Menu Mania – Use menus at your favorite restaurant to recognize numbers. Start with numbers in order. Can you find a 1? and so on. Then you call a number and ask your child to find it.
This is a great activity for making sure they know their numbers. When you start this game, write the numbers in order for them to use as a guide. Eventually, they won’t need your help.
3. Number Values – Making the connection between counting orally, recognizing the numeral, and understanding the value are four different things. You can increase their number knowledge with games dealing with values.
What can find in the house that has a value of 3? We have 3 bathtubs. We have two tv’s. We have four lamps in the den. Another fun activity uses an ice cube tray.
Dollar Tree and Target Dollar Spot often have seasonal ice cube trays and sometimes they have 10 ice cubes. Have your child make a snack by filling up the tray. He can have 4 pretzels, 2 cookies, and 4 blueberries. She can have 6 slices of banana and 4 blueberries.
Of course, that doesn’t have to be the whole snack, but it’s a fun way to start.
Rhyming isn’t just a game, it’s an essential step in phonological awareness.
Have fun with rhyming. I know there is more than one Hannah Banana out there.
Rhyming is fun.
1. Show me the Rhyme – A fun game to play with rhyming is “Show Me.”
Using things in your den or in their bedroom, ask them to show you a rhyme for objects you can see.
Show me something that rhymes with chair (bear). Show me something that rhymes with soar (drawer). Show me something that rhymes with bug (rug).
Make sure you are also playing with nonsense rhymes. Show me something that rhymes with “millow” (pillow). Show me something that rhymes with “ficture” (picture).
2. Rhyming Families – Make as many rhymes as you can with one word. This is a fun car activity. One person starts the rhyme, “cat.”
Then, each person takes a turn and tells a rhyme in that family (bat, sat, fat, flat, mat, splat…). You have to decide if nonsense words are allowed.
3. Silly Sentences – This is a fun way to make a silly sentence. One person starts with “I see a ham” and the next person finishes the sentence with a rhyming word “on the ram.”
This is also a fun way to practice drawing, too. Wouldn’t it be funny to see a ham on a ram.
One of the hardest things for kindergartners is attending to a task for longer than thirty seconds.
You can help build stamina for their success.
They need to be able to start a task and complete it without letting their attention wander.
I suggest you set a goal with them.
Use your microwave or phone timer for 30 seconds, tell them to continue a task for 30 seconds without stopping.
After a few successful rounds increase the timer by 15 seconds. Some tasks to strengthen are coloring, drawing, writing their name, writing letters, looking at books, and putting puzzles together.
One of the main goals of this task is working consistently and not talking or interacting with anyone else. It seems simple, but it’s very powerful. The last idea is a tag-team to this idea.
Read to Them
I have done many blog posts on the importance of reading to your children.
It is such a powerful way to build a child who is eager, enthusiastic, empathetic, and engaged.
There are a few important things to think about.
1. Quiet Listener – Make sure your child can listen to a whole book and not interrupt the reader.
This is tricky because I would hope your child’s kindergarten teacher would have engaging read alouds with appropriate think alouds, but there will be 20 other students listening, so you need to create a respectful listener, as well.
2. Talk about It – Talk about the book: What happened? What came first? Why did the character do that? Which character would you like to be? What is your favorite part? What would you change?
3. Read Many Kinds of Books – I know we want to read the books our children like, but we also need to expose them to many types of books. Your child will definitely be expected to sit quietly for all the books the teacher chooses, so getting practice listening to books that aren’t their preference is important.
My friend Sarah, has a great blog post for Back to School Read Alouds.
I hope this list will inspire you to help your soon-to-be kindergartner get ready for an amazing year.
For other great blog posts, check out these from the ladies in The Reading Crew.