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Friday, July 11, 2008

Beginning Kindergarten

Kindergarten can be an exciting time in a child’s life - a time full of fresh possibilities and the opportunity to learn. It can also spur up a little anxiety if you or your child are unsure if you are both ready. To help prepare you, I asked Cliff Owen, the Director of Instruction at McCracken County Public Schools, to weigh in on transitioning into Kindergarten.

Skills your child should possess when entering into Kindergarten:

Ability to “recognize colors, numbers, and letters.” Practice identifying numbers, colors, and letters wherever you go - even if it’s identifying numbers on price tags, colors of shirts, and letters on signs while out shopping.

Ability to “recognize their name.” Although your child may not be able to write their name yet, they should be able to recognize their name. Practice with your child, writing out different names on card-stock and having them select the correct card. You can also have them practice writing their own name, if they will.

Ability to “play well with others.“ Get together with a few other parents and their children. Let your child practice sharing and have fun playing with children he or she is not familiar with. Make sure your child is aware of boundaries such as hitting, biting, and spitting.

Ability to “cut with scissors.” Have your child practice cutting straight and curved lines with scissors to help develop the muscles required to hold a pencil.

Ability to sit and listen to stories being read or someone talking. Practice by reading to your child and asking them to sit quietly and listen - or, head to the library for story time! Be sure to pick stories with topics that your child finds interesting to keep the learning fun!

Ability to “communicate with others.” Practice walking around, pointing to objects and naming them. This fun game well help expand your child’s vocabulary and can help them master their language skills.

Ability to express him or herself. Your child should have some basic language skills down and should be able to express their thoughts in some way. Try really listening to your child, and asking them questions - and wait, without interrupting, for their answers.

Ability to sort and group colors and like objects. At this age, your child should be able to sort and group some things. Try laying out four different objects, three of the same color and have them choose the one that doesn’t belong. Or, you can do groups - like, three cars and a cow - Which doesn’t belong? Don’t worry if your child falters or gets confused. Simply show them the correct object and praise them for their good effort.

Ability to wash their hands and perform other bathroom tasks. Kindergartners should know how to do basic bathroom tasks on their own: go potty, wash and dry hands, pull their pants back up, etc. If your child has trouble with any of these basics, be sure to help them practice.

Ability to dress themselves. Although you may not prefer to let your child pick out their wardrobe (Hello, Disney Princess!), you should let them try their hand at manipulating things like zippers, buttons, velcro, buckles, and whatever else clothes come made with these days. Your child should be able to unbuckle and buckle their belts, unbutton and button buttons, unzip and zip zippers, and so on. It’s okay if they occasionally have trouble - but, just remember when picking out clothes - that a tricky button or zipper could be the difference in making it to the bathroom on time!


As always, the above list are merely generalizations. No child is ever the same. Some children may be ahead of these guidelines, while others may not completely have a couple of them mastered. If your child has just begun to learn a task, but hasn’t mastered it yet, just try practicing it more with them. Make it a game, and keep the learning fun. However, if for some reason you are worried that your child may be behind or not ready for Kindergarten, be sure to call your local school or Board of Education for guidance and resources.

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