My name is Andrea and I am an Army wife, mommy, blogger, and teacher. I’ve taught both in Arizona and for the Department of Defense here in Germany. I absolutely adore teaching Kindergarten and today I’m going to share some important things your child should know before school starts.
I know you’re thinking, “But it’s only March!” but trust me, it’s never too early to start! Whether your child is two years old or five, these skills are vital to his/her success in school. Build a strong foundation at home before your child starts school. Kindergarten isn’t what it used to be. Most adults think of Kindergarten as an extension of preschool – a time to play, explore, and nap – but it has become much more academic. By the end of the school year, Kindergarten children are now expected to read, write, and complete simple addition problems! We even start working on telling time and basic money concepts, not to mention science and social studies units!
Still think March is too early to start working with your child? I always advocate starting early and building a foundation at home. Maia and I already work on some of these concepts even though she’s only 15 months old – although she doesn’t even know we’re ‘working’ yet! But I’m a teacher and I know what to expect for her first year (and those that follow.) I want to share with you too, so that your child can be prepared for an exciting and fun first year of school!
*Each child is different and some have obstacles to overcome before these skills can be mastered. Know your child and seek help from a qualified source if necessary.*
1. Sing the ABC’s.
This might seem like a no-brainer, but you would be shocked at the number of students who enter Kindergarten without being able to recite the alphabet! If you don’t know how to sing the ABC song, how on earth could you be expected to write them? Sing the ABC song with your children throughout the day. Sing it as you change your baby’s diaper, or give your kids a bath, or set the table for a meal, or when you’re driving in the car… It takes less than a minute to sing and there are plenty of minutes in a day where you can sneak them in!
*Hint: Be sure to sing clearly and slowly through the “L, M, N, O” portion of the song. When we sing it quickly, it sounds like one long letter – and your child will learn it that way!
2. Write his/her first and last name.
Start by concentrating on the first name. Be sure to encourage proper grip on the pencil or crayon! Say each letter as you write. Don’t worry about writing on lined paper or making each letter perfect – it’s not developmentally possible at three or four years old! Help your child learn how to write first and last name and worry about making it look nice a little later.
3. Identify all 26 letters – capital and lowercase.
This is a skill that would be great for your child to know when entering Kindergarten, by the truth is: it might be too much to know by September. I would expect most children to know by January though. Start with the first letter of your child’s first name. Whenever you see his/her name in print, point out the first letter and say its name. Pick random letters as you encounter them: on a cereal box or license plate, in a book, on a toy… Be creative.
*Hint: Capital letters are easier!
4. Write all 26 letters – capital and lowercase.
A great way to practice writing the letters is by tracing them. Write the letters on a piece of paper with plenty of space around each one. Have your child trace the letters with a pencil, crayon, or marker. After your child can trace them, see if he/she can do it without the tracing as a guide. Again, start with capital letters. There are even fonts available for download that print letters (and numbers!) with dashed lines for tracing!
*Hint: Use unorthodox materials to learn how to write! Finger paint the letters, laminate a piece of paper and give your child a dry-erase marker, write in the sand at the beach or in a sandbox, make a letter with cheerios or veggies during meals…
5. Know all 26 letter sounds.
This is obviously dependent on actually knowing the letters first! Be sure to build up to letter sounds once your child can identify each letter. This is a crucial skill as your child learns to read and must “sound out” a word.
*Hint: Want a great educational video to help? Try Leapfrog’s The Letter Factory. It’s one of my favorites!
6. Count from 0 – 20.
This is another skill that is essential! Be sure your child knows at least 0 – 10 before starting Kindergarten. Just like with the ABC’s, you can count anytime! Spend a minute here or there counting, point out how many of something there are (“Wow! There are two doggies walking outside!”) and eventually start asking your child to identify how many there are (“Look at the doggies outside! Maia, how many doggies are there?”)
*Hint: Many kids get confused after 10 so be patient! Always correct your child’s mistakes calmly and then move one!
7. Identify numbers 0 – 20.
As your child is learning the numbers, be sure to point them out when you see them in day-to-day life. Point to and identify numbers in a recipe, on a sign, in a book, at the store, or write them yourself!
8. Write numbers 0 – 20.
Again, start by tracing! It’s fun and it will help your child learn how to correctly form each letter. Don’t stress that each number is perfect – there is plenty of time to help them write on the lines later. Developmentally, it just isn’t possible yet!
9. Basic sight words.
Sight words are a great way to give a child a “head start” in reading. These words occur often in beginner reader books. Knowing these words will eliminate the need to “sound out” every. single. word. Help your child identify (and eventually spell) the following words: a, at, am, and, can, I, like, me, my, no, said, see, the, to. Add to this list as your child masters the words.
*Hint: HeidiSongs makes GREAT videos that incorporate song and movement to help your child learn sight words. We started each day in my classroom with a word or two from a video to reinforce what we were learning.
Please don’t try to tackle all of these skills at once. Build upon what your child already knows and gradually incorporate new information as you go along. These are all skills that can be taught in a fun and stress-free environment! Your child does not have to sit at a desk for 30 minutes a day in order to be successful. (You’ll both end up going crazy if you try to do it that way!) Spend a few minutes here and there throughout each day. Capitalize on ‘teaching moments’ – moments when you can slip in new information, reinforce what you have already been working on, or ask your child to demonstrate what he/she has learned.
Read to your child everyday. It exposes him/her to the letters, words, and a great model. Let your child choose books out of the library or bookstore, let them “read” to you, point out letters, sounds, and words as you go.
Remember, POSITIVE reinforcement is by far the most effective way to encourage your child. Give lots of high-fives, hugs, smiles, cheers…you get the idea. Help your child feel proud of his/her accomplishments. Incorrect answers are not a cause for stress or anger. Patiently repeat the correct information and then move on! Don’t harp on a mistake. Children learn at different rates and in different ways. Be patient and positive. Your child will be willing to try again if the environment is nonjudgmental and fun.
Thanks so much Andrea!