How to Help Your Child be Successful in Kindergarten
By Tina O'Block
Your child's first year of school should be a fun
and exciting time. Children who are comfortable with and prepared
for this first school experience are more likely to have rewarding
and productive years, and therefore associate positive feelings with
education. Since parents are children's first and most important
teachers, you can play a key role in preparing your children for a
successful school experience by pre-exposing them to key concepts
they will experience in school. This can be done in a fun, enjoyable
manner by making everyday play experiences learning experiences as
New learning builds on prior knowledge, therefore
the more exposure or background a child has with a concept the
easier it is for new learning and deeper comprehension to occur.
Providing your child with pre-exposure to concepts such as the
alphabet, numbers, following directions, listening, reading,
cutting, tracing, etc. will help them feel more comfortable and
confident when they experience these similar concepts in school,
thus better enabling learning to occur. Schools are becoming more
academic, dependent on standardized tests, and fast-paced. Giving
your children some familiarity with concepts they will encounter can
help lessen the anxiety and stress that often accompany these
experiences. Children who are overly stressed or uncomfortable are
less likely to be able to concentrate and learn.
Children have a natural motivation to learn and a
curiosity about the world. You can enhance and nurture this natural
motivation by making enjoyable play experiences learning experiences
For example, children's games are great resources
for combining learning with physical activity. Duck, Duck, Goose can
be a way of reinforcing concepts such as the alphabet by having
children say the name of a letter in place of the word, duck, and a
word that begins with that letter in place of the word, goose.
Hide and Seek can become a learning experience by
hiding numbers, letters, colors, your child's name, phone number,
address, etc. around the house and asking your child to find them.
Simon Says is a great game to practice following
directions and positional words such as on, above, below, etc.
Bingo can be used to reinforce number recognition,
letter recognition, the difference between upper case and lower case
letters, letter sounds, colors, etc.
You can have a treasure hunt while shopping,
driving, or at home by seeing how many letters, numbers, colors, or
shapes your child can find.
You can also play I Spy where you state, "I spy
with my little eye something that is…" and you describe a
letter, number, shape, color, etc. that you can plainly see. Your
child then tries to guess what you are describing. Your child can
also take a turn describing something (this helps develop verbal skills).
Children's individual interests can also be
incorporated into learning experiences.
Blocks or Lego's can be used to teach patterns
(have them build towers with alternating colors), counting, sorting
(separate the blocks by colors, shapes, size), etc.
If your child likes to color, have them create
rainbow tracings of letters or numbers by tracing them with as many
colors as possible.
Play dough can be made into shapes, letters, and numbers.
An interest in cars and trucks can be used when
learning how to trace by telling your child to keep his car (crayon
or pencil) on the road (whatever is being traced).
An interest in animals or dinosaurs can be used when
learning how to cut with scissors by relating the opening and
closing of the scissors to the opening and closing of an animal's
mouth. You can pretend the animal is "eating" the lines on the paper.
Your child's surroundings can also play a part in
preparing them for school. Providing a number and variety of books
for your child and taking time to read to them is one of the most
important things you can do for their education. Reading to a child
teaches them vocal skills, vocabulary, listening skills,
left-to-right orientation, cause and effect, knowledge about the world around
them, and pre-reading skills. Most importantly, it instills a love
for reading and books which will benefit them throughout their
entire education. After all, every subject (even math) requires reading.
Our brain absorbs information from our surroundings
on a conscious and unconscious level, and between 80-90% of all
information absorbed by the brain is visual. Therefore, providing
visual displays in your child's room or elsewhere can actually
aide in learning. Things such as the alphabet, colors, numbers, etc.
can be hung up or displayed in places where your child will see
them. Even magnetic letters on the refrigerator can aide in
retention and learning. This is why many schools have plenty of
visuals displayed in the halls and classrooms.
Young children can also learn many concepts through
music. For example, they usually learn their abc's by the alphabet
song. There are many children's tapes available that teach
concepts through music. Playing these while in the car or while your
children play can aide them in learning. Even though they might not
be singing along or seem like they are even paying attention,
subconscious learning can be occurring.
You may also want to practice separating from your
child for short periods of time, such as enrolling in a program or
play group or having them spend time with a babysitter. Separation
anxiety can be traumatic for some children if they are not used to
being away from their parents, and this anxiety can inhibit their
ability to learn and relax while in school.
Lastly, no matter what methods you try with your
child, the most important thing to remember is to make them
enjoyable. You want your child to associate positive feelings with
learning. Take turns choosing activities; give your child some
choice sometimes. This makes them feel less dictated to and more
willing to learn. Also, offer them some variety in activities, do
not always use the same learning methods all of the time as this can
create boredom and disinterest. Choose the methods that work best
with your child (every child is different) and have fun!
Children are like flowers, they all bloom at
different times. But, parents can help nurture them by providing
experiences that enable them to blossom into children who love
learning and school.
Tina O'Block holds a Master's degree in Curriculum and Instruction and a
Bachelor's degree in Elementary Education. She has been teaching
kindergarten/preschool for 13 years. You may also contact her at