Kindergarten readiness looks a bit different these days since educational expectations have changed and evolved over the years. Curriculum has shifted in the information age, as we realize that, first and foremost, kids will need to be critical thinkers and creative problem solvers. As we ask them to be innovative, imaginative and creative, we must nurture the skills, mindsets and behaviors that encourage problem solving and working toward a goal, thus promoting success in school and in life. Increasingly, kids are learning through their own inquiry, where active participation involves them in constructing their knowledge rather than sitting passively as it is handed to them. An engaging method, this type of learning requires that kids are prepared to participate. In anticipation of the demands that 21st-century learning places on kids, parents can promote success by engaging them in fun and creative ways to jumpstart kindergarten readiness.
Ready to Read and Write
As kids start kindergarten, the emphasis is still on developing foundational literacy, numeracy and language skills. To make them reading-ready, parents should read lots of books and help kids recognize letters. Pre-reading skills include how to hold a book, how to turn the pages and reading from left to right. Get kids involved as early as you can; start with the letters in their name and point them out everywhere—in stories, on billboards and in environmental print. Get kids ready to write by copying letters. Using rainbow colored crayons on paper and tracing with their finger in sand or even shaving cream are great ways to engage different senses in the process. Magnetic letters are a fun way to spell out words on the refrigerator or on a baking sheet. One-to-one correspondence is an important foundational skill in both literacy and numeracy. Point to words as you read them, and help kids touch or point to objects as they count them. Use a printable five frame for counting to five, and once they have mastered five, move on to the ten frame. Let them set the table, counting out place settings for each member of the family.
Beyond Reading, Writing and Arithmetic
Pam Schiller, author of Seven Skills for School Success, suggests that there are seven key character traits kids must have to be successful in school and that each of them is grounded in social and emotional intelligence. Parents have tremendous influence during the early childhood years in helping kids to develop and practice these traits. They are:
- Confidence — In order to develop confidence, kids must be challenged to attempt new accomplishments and experience the success of achieving them. Schiller advises that parents focus on process over product and encouragement over praise. Supporting preschool kids as they solve a more complex puzzle or build a taller block tower will encourage that sense of accomplishment. Help them view mistakes and failures as opportunities to start again, and kids will grow to see themselves as competent problem solvers.
- Curiosity — Human beings are born curious, so helping kids cultivate that curiosity need not be hard. Looking at the world through a young child’s eyes means stopping to smell the roses, watch the inchworms and study the clouds. Taking every opportunity to follow kids’ lead will allow walks in the park, visits to the zoo, days at the beach and even trips to the grocery store to be fruitful learning experiences that reward and extend curiosity.
- Intentionality — Schiller describes intentionality as making thoughtful choices and differentiating between what kids want to do and what is the right thing to do. Helping kids develop intentionality involves encouraging determination and finishing what they start. Parents can model reflective thinking by sharing their thoughts aloud. They can choose picture books in which characters must make a tough choice. When kids can empathize with a book’s protagonist, powerful lessons are possible.
- Self-control -- Developing self-control is an important step in kindergarten readiness. Parents who set appropriate expectations and reasonable boundaries for kids set them up for success. Being consistent with kids and meeting inappropriate behavior with logical consequences helps them learn self-control. By seizing teachable moments to explain rules and helping kids understand the consequences of their actions, we can help them build patience and impulse control, learn to take turns and to share.
- Relatedness — As kids learn to interpret their feelings and understand their connection to others, they build a sense of relatedness. Helping kids see another point of view or think about alternative options gives them practice with cooperative problem-solving. Taking time in the course of the day to model peaceful conflict resolution gives kids practice in context. Invite them to help you prepare a meal for a sick friend or run errands for an elderly neighbor. Parents are kids’ first role models, so seeing you show empathy and compassion sets a powerful example.
- Capacity to communicate — Recent research suggests that back-and-forth communication between parents and kids is one of the most important factors in language development and school readiness. Rather than talking down to them, use accurate vocabulary. Kids learn real terminology as easily as simplified words. Ask your child questions that require critical thinking, such as, “Can you think of a vegetable we eat that is a leaf? A root? A seed? A flower? A stem?” Be sure to follow up on their answers to keep the conversation flowing.
- Cooperativeness — Kids learn to cooperate with others by working and playing together. Get them involved in family chores, then celebrate the task’s completion with a fun activity together. Family games are a good opportunity to follow simple rules as well as multi-step directions; both skills will help kids to be kindergarten ready. Learning to be collaborative is another important skill that will benefit kids in school. It is also a trait that employers cite at the top of the list for their desired employees.
Summer Provides an Added Boost
Attending an age-appropriate summer camp specifically designed to target the developmental needs of preK kids can be an ingenious way to jumpstart kindergarten readiness. Even if kids have attended preschool, spending the summer immersed in learning activities not only augments their background knowledge, but also enhances their social and emotional intelligence, providing added value. Camp Galileo promotes kindergarten readiness by immersing kids in project-based STEAM learning. By emphasizing science, technology, engineering, art and math, Camp G primes kids’ curiosity. They become more independent as they build comfort with camp routines, but also get plenty of practice using cooperative and collaborative skills within their group of Nebulas, the special name given to preK and kindergarten kids. An 8-to-1 camper to staff ratio ensures that Nebulas are supported as they participate in developmentally appropriate activities that engage and challenge them. Besides all the content knowledge and skills practice, kids are introduced to the Galileo Innovation Approach®. The GIA gives kids a glimpse of themselves as capable innovators with unique ideas to share. It also teaches them to view mistakes, not as defeat, but as steps that help them learn.
So many opportunities to jumpstart kindergarten readiness exist in the course of every day. Besides supporting them to develop pre-literacy and pre-numeracy skills, parents can help kids to be curious and confident learners capable of communicating and getting along with others. Enjoying quality time with them and seizing the teachable moments to engage them in meaningful conversation will ensure that they arrive for kindergarten ready to tackle the challenges.
For a fun and engaging way to jumpstart kindergarten readiness, check out these camps in your area: San Francisco, Southern California, and Chicagoland. Register for a camp session or sign up for our mailing list to keep up-to-date with camp happenings and innovation resources. Or, for more information about Galileo camps, contact us here.