Kindergarten Readiness: Help Your Child Succeed in their First Year of School

Starting Kindergarten can be a big transition for a child. To help them succeed in their first year of school, children need the necessary skills, referred to as Kindergarten Readiness.

What is Kindergarten Readiness and why is it important?

The Urban Child Institute defines Kindergarten Readiness as “a child’s ability to participate successfully in the learning process when [they reach] school.”1

Being prepared for Kindergarten not only sets up a child for success that first year but is also strongly associated with better academic outcomes throughout their school years, including higher graduation rates and less grade repetition.2

What do children need to succeed in Kindergarten?

We recommend focusing on six key areas to help children get ready for Kindergarten:

  • Reading
  • Language and speech development
  • Movement
  • Problem solving
  • Self-management
  • New skills during COVID-19 (including hand washing and wearing masks)

Children can develop these skills or practices during structured environments (such as daycare or preschool classes) or at home.

When is the right time to start thinking about Kindergarten?

It’s never too early to start thinking about your child’s first year of school. Children who are exposed to reading and language-rich environments and have positive associations with reading prior to Kindergarten have a better chance of success in school.3

You are your child’s first and best teacher — that’s why we encourage you to build these key areas into your everyday routines as early as possible. Some areas (such as reading) are appropriate for babies, whereas others (such as problem solving or self-management) are more suitable for toddlers.

Kindergarten Readiness: 6 Areas of Focus

Reading

Why reading is important:

While preschoolers are not expected to know how to read when they enter Kindergarten, reading to your child helps them develop early literacy skills, which is everything they know about reading and writing before they can do it themselves. Building literacy skills early means your child is much more likely to become a good reader, which is essential for learning and future school success. Conversely, a child who has not achieved a modest reading level by the end of Grade 3 is unlikely to graduate from high school.4

How you can support reading at home:

Be a good role model! Children who see adults enjoying reading are more likely to be interested too.5

Read daily, but don’t focus on the format (recipes, street signs and comic books all count) or time spent as short, positive interactions will help to create a love of reading. Make it easy by having books around and while you’re reading, run your finger along the words to show that what you’re saying connects with what is printed. Talk about what you see and ask questions to help build your child’s reading comprehension.

Need some suggested books? Check out these titles about starting school for the first time.

Language and Speech Development

Why language and speech development is important:

Together with strong literacy skills, children with strong language skills are more likely to go further in school, have a higher income, avoid incarceration and be healthier and happier throughout life.6  In short, the benefits are life changing.

How you can support language and speech development at home:

Talking frequently with your child — in your home language — is the easiest way to encourage development of these critical skills. Preschoolers are better at having opinions and they’ll likely want to express their feelings and opinions with you. Following the “serve and return” model, notice your child’s cues and interests (the serve) and respond with support and encouragement (the return). These back-and-forth interactions strengthen brain cell connections7 and teach your preschooler how to have longer conversations and to take turns listening.8

Singing is a great way to start to develop language from an early age, but it continues to be beneficial (and fun) as kids get older.

Movement

Why movement is important:

According to Canada’s new 24-hour movement guidelines, children aged one to four need to be active for 180 minutes a day and five-year-olds need to play energetically for at least 60 minutes a day. Movement is key to children’s healthy development as it improves everything from their physical and mental health to school success and general quality of life. Integrating movement into daily routines and activities can help concentration and improve behaviour.9 Like dancing, it’s also a great way for children to learn about how their bodies work. They are developing control and balance — and having fun!

How you can support movement at home:

Get moving and grooving with your child and make it a family affair. Check out this selection of titles related to dance, sports, yoga and more! Dance to this list of CDs and streaming music or check out these kid-friendly tunes from singer Beppie on Capital City Records, EPL’s source for great local music.

Problem Solving

Why problem solving is important:

As parents know, life is full of challenges! Getting children to practise solving their smaller problems now means they’ll be better at solving bigger problems in the future.

How you can support problem solving at home:

As children get older, it’s important to increase the difficulty and complexity of the challenges presented to them while continuing to provide encouragement and support if the child becomes frustrated. For example, sorting items by shapes OR colours is an appropriate challenge for toddlers. However, asking preschoolers to sort items by shapes AND colours not only helps with colour and shape recognition, but they also learn about solving problems at the same time.

Problem-solving activities don’t need to feel like homework. Board games and puzzles are great opportunities to practise this skill in a fun way. Play is also very important for children and encourages problem-solving skills. In fact, a study found that children who were good at pretend play were good at problem solving because they are practised at thinking about different possibilities or outcomes.10

Self-management

Why self-management is important:

A child’s ability to regulate their own behaviour is an important skill they need to succeed in a classroom environment and navigate the room management strategies their teachers may employ. Specifically, preschoolers need to be able to recognize the growing complexity of feelings in themselves and others, identify solutions to simple problems, use strategies such as deep breathing to calm down (with support), focus their attention for increased lengths of time, learn to understand different perspectives and start to develop empathy.11

How you can support self-management at home:

Depending on your child’s previous experience in other environments, such as childcare settings, and experience with other children, self-management may be one of their biggest challenges. You can practise these skills at home by talking about feelings, acknowledging others’ feelings, taking turns and focusing on a specific task or activity for longer periods of time.

Play and games also provide valuable learning opportunities for children, helping them develop empathy, resilience and the ability to work through their feelings.12

New Skills during COVID-19

Due to global pandemic, Kindergarten will look different this year and preschoolers will need new skills to adapt. Start by talking to your child about COVID-19. These free eBooks for children provide simple explanations about the virus and ways for us to stay safe. Alberta Health Services also has information about talking to your kids about COVID, including keeping the message simple, offering comfort and honesty and acknowledging fears.

Washing hands:

Practise hand washing before and after activities and eating. You can sing a hand washing song or any song that will help your preschooler with how long to wash for and to make it fun!

Here’s one of our favourites, to the tune of Frère Jacques:

Tops and bottoms, tops and bottoms
In between, in between,
Wash and wash and wash them,
Wash and wash and wash them,
Nice and clean. Nice and clean.

Wearing masks:

Effective Aug. 1, wearing a mask or face covering is mandatory in all indoor public places and transit in Edmonton for most people two years old and up. Effective Aug. 4, school health measures include mandatory masks for grades 4 to 12 students and staff where physical distancing cannot be maintained.

Introduce masks to your preschooler honestly but positively. “When we wear masks, we stop germs from making people sick. It’s like a superpower!” Practise wearing them at home, making sure to cover the nose and mouth and remind children to not touch their masks once they’re on. Normalize masks by incorporating them into your routine, wearing them yourself and even putting them on toys!

Physical distancing:

Physical distancing is a difficult concept for children for grasp. Six feet or two meters doesn’t mean much to a preschooler so try putting it in terms they might understand such as the length of an adult hockey stick or most beds. You can also use familiar objects and spaces to give them a point of reference.

Learn more about back to school this year.

How the Library Can Help

To support Kindergarten Readiness at home, EPL created four online classes just for preschoolers. These classes practise important skills needed for entering school and are lots of fun! Each video features a kid-friendly theme, songs, stories and other opportunities for children to move around. Completing school-like activities at home13 may be especially important for children who haven’t attended preschool classes or structured daycare due to the global pandemic or other reasons.

For parents, EPL staff model how to interact with your preschooler to build these skills at home.

Watch our Kindergarten Readiness videos

To maximize the impact of each class:

  • Watch the videos with your preschooler — this alone makes all the difference in the value your child will get from the classes
  • Help them complete the take home activity for even more learning
  • Incorporate these elements into your daily routines

For even more resources for preschoolers:

View our Kids 0-5 page


References

  1. The Urban Child Institute. (2020). Data Book 2010: The State of Children in Memphis and Shelby County (No. 5). http://www.urbanchildinstitute.org/sites/all/files/databooks/TUCI_Data_Book_V_2010.complete.v2.pdf
  2. Heard-Garris, N. (2020b, April 20). Your 5-Year-Old. New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/18/parenting/milestones/5-year-old.html
  3. Logan, J. A. R., Justice, L. M., Yumuş, M., & Chaparro-Moreno, L. J. (2019). When Children Are Not Read to at Home. Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, Publish Ahead of Print, 383–386. https://doi.org/10.1097/DBP.0000000000000657
  4. The Annie E. Casey Foundation. (2010). Early warning! Why reading by the end of third grade matters. https://www.aecf.org/resources/early-warning-why-reading-by-the-end-of-third-grade-matters
  5. Healthy Parents, Healthy Children. (n.d.). Preschoolers: Growing and Learning Together. Retrieved July 28, 2020, from https://www.healthyparentshealthychildren.ca/im-a-parent/preschoolers-3-and-4-year-olds/social-emotional-development-2
  6. Edmonton Public Library. (2019). The Power of the Voice for Healthy Development [Infographic]. https://www.epl.ca/sharing-voices
  7. Healthy Parents, Healthy Children. (n.d.-b). Your Preschooler’s Growth & Development. Retrieved July 29, 2020, from https://www.healthyparentshealthychildren.ca/im-a-parent/preschoolers-3-and-4-year-olds/your-preschoolers-development/
  8. Healthy Parents, Healthy Children. (n.d.). Preschoolers: Growing and Learning Together. Retrieved July 28, 2020, from https://www.healthyparentshealthychildren.ca/im-a-parent/preschoolers-3-and-4-year-olds/social-emotional-development-2
  9. Weir, M. M. (2020, April 20). Your 4-Year-Old. New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/18/parenting/milestones/4-year-old.html
  10. Gopnik, A. (2012, June 30). Let the Children Play, It’s Good for Them! Smithsonian Magazine. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/let-the-children-play-its-good-for-them-130697324/
  11. Rosanbalm, K. D., & Murray, D. W. (2017). Promoting Self-Regulation in the First Five Years: A Practice Brief. Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. https://fpg.unc.edu/sites/fpg.unc.edu/files/resources/reports-and-policy-briefs/PromotingSelf-RegulationIntheFirstFiveYears.pdf
  12. Grose, J. (2020, July 21). The State of Play. New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/21/parenting/the-state-of-play.html
  13. Weir, M. M. (2020, April 20). Your 4-Year-Old. New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/18/parenting/milestones/4-year-old.html
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