The Kindergarten Transition—Is Your Child Ready?

“She can’t read yet!”

“What if he’s just not ready socially?”

“But her lowercase ‘e’s . . . she still writes them backwards!”

Take a deep breath, parents of preschoolers.

While kindergarten is on the horizon and worries about what your child isn’t able to do yet loom large, you don’t need to panic. We’ve surveyed a group of local experts—trained and experienced teachers and school administrators—to learn more about the skills and abilities that reflect your young student’s potential readiness
for kindergarten.

What are the most important social skills kids should have going into kindergarten?

According to these teachers and preschool pros, compassion, empathy, communication, and the ability to share are among the most important social skills that kids need to have prior to kindergarten. Being able to follow multi-step directions, separate smoothly from parents, and take turns also stood out.

Patience and self-control, perhaps two of the most difficult skills for young children to master, were also at the top of the list. And let’s not forget being potty-trained; kids are expected to be 100-percent proficient before entering kindergarten.

Here’s what the experts have to say (edited for length and clarity) about what social skills are necessary to your kindergartner's success:

“Socially it is helpful if children have experience sharing—materials, toys, the attention of the adults, the decisions about what to play, etc. If they cannot read social cues telling them when to yield to someone else, there is often conflict and they don’t even realize they are the cause.
—Claire Dant, Bethel Christian Academy

“They should also know how to be patient when making requests and how to wait for the appropriate time to get an adult’s attention.” 
—Julie Marsh, Rockbridge Academy

“Understanding the importance of working well within a group; having a strong sense of self.”
—Barbara Oglesbee, Indian Creek School

“Understanding that there are consequences for their actions.”
—Kristin Bortnick, Lighthouse Christian Academy

“Using words to solve problems, knowing some different methods to help solve these problems, verbally answering peers and teachers (not ignoring). We teach kids all year long how to be problem solvers (on their own before asking a teacher to help).”
—Jen Holcomb, Nichols-Bethel United Methodist Church Preschool

What reading readiness skills should kids have going into kindergarten?GettyImages 909258602

Preschoolers definitely don’t need to know how to read to enter kindergarten. According to the experts, awareness is the name of the pre-reading game. Knowing the alphabet, recognizing one’s name, familiarity with letters and their sounds, and rhyming were popular survey responses. Being able to spell simple words and match upper and lowercase letters is generally expected, too.

Our pros on kindergartners’ early reading skills:

“Phonological awareness is one important component of reading readiness. In the early years,     children should be encouraged to identify words in a sentence and syllables within words. In addition, attention should be paid to pre-writing skills. Learning to recognize their name in print and the meaning of common environmental signage can be a fun and rewarding experience.”
—Dr. Erin Stauder, The Hearing and Speech Agency

“It is helpful if children have become lovers of listening to stories read aloud; creating their own stories; experiencing significant adults in their lives loving to read; have a developing sense of the sounds of letters; hearing a wide variety of types of literature and have growing desire to read for themselves.”
—Oglesbee

“Enjoys listening to stories and knows how to find the first page of a book and turn the pages. Be able to understand the story and answer questions after. Can draw a picture to express an idea.”
—Bortnick 

“Children need experience with manipulating language so that they can make the connection between language sounds and the letters that make those sounds. It is more important that they have basic   phonics skills than the ability to just recognize letters. The letter-sound correlation is the foundation of reading.”
—Dant

What are the top math skills for kids to have going into kindergarten?

Our experts suggest that counting (to at least 20), being able to put things in sequential order, and number recognition are some of the top math skills preschoolers should carry with them to kindergarten. Identifying/recognition of numerals and one-to-one correspondence are key.

Also mentioned:

“Having a sense that numbers have a meaning of quantity.”
—Bonnie Williams, Kent School 

“Beginning to develop ‘number sense’ is more important than just recognizing numerals. Understanding what the numerals represent is an abstract concept that is critical to growing math skills.”
—Dant

“Being able to count forwards and backwards; and understanding more and less.”
—Susan Jeglinski, St. Andrew by the Bay

What physical activities are important to learn in preschool that will help kindergartners be prepared?

In addition to gross-motor skills (being able to kick a ball, run, skip, and hop on one foot), our panel says that fine-motor and “self-help” skills are equally important in a child’s physical development. Here’s what the professionals say are critical skills:

“Standing in line, following directions, controlling their body and their talking.”
—Bonnie Reamy, Little Lamb Preschool

“Marching and clapping to a beat, pedaling a tricycle, pumping on the swings, climbing independently”
—Meg McClary, Radcliffe Creek School

“Understanding where one’s body is in space is an important gross motor skill. Kids who bump into other kids or seem out of control of their body often struggle with this understanding, leading to unintended social and behavioral consequences.”
—Stauder 

“Fine-motor skill development is preparation for writing: so working with clay, cutting with scissors, holding a marker, paintbrush, crayon, pencils etc. with the proper pincer grip are all critical to develop the small muscles in the hand to enable the child to write.”
—Joy Morrow, New Hope Academy

What’s one thing every child should learn in preschool?

Among the many, many things kids learn in preschool, these are skills that our panel prioritizes:

Williams: “Socialization”

Jeglinksi: “A sense of self and a bit of independence”

Kemper: “How to be a friend”

Oglesbee: “Develop a sense of wonder/curiosity”

Dant: “That learning is FUN and that they CAN do it!”

What’s something parents should NOT worry about as their kids finish preschool and head into kindergarten?

Telling parents not to be concerned may be fruitless, but here a few things parents need not worry about leading up to kindergarten:

“The differences between their child and other children. They all develop at different rates.”
—Jeglinksi

“Kids should not be expected to read or know all the sounds in the alphabet at kindergarten entry. The focus of preschool and prekindergarten should be on fostering a love of inquiry and problem solving.”
—Stauder

“That they are not reading yet! Scientific research suggests that all the parts of the brain are not yet fully developed until age seven to begin to read!”
—Holcomb

“Don’t rush your child to be a scholar. They are not scholars, they are children!”—Donna Stewart, Calvary Baptist Church Academy

There you have it, straight from local educators. No matter what your child’s abilities, you can rest easy knowing that every kid matures (academically and otherwise) at his or her own pace and need not have mastered everything to head into kindergarten.

—Laura Boycourt

 

Ready to find the perfect preschool for your child? Check out Chesapeake Family Life's Preschool and Child Care Fair at the Westfield Annapolis Mall, January 26, 10 a.m.–2 p.m.

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