What does it mean for a child to be ready for kindergarten? Everyone, from families, schools, politicians and community members, has a different idea about what it means for a child to be ready for school. One thread I hope they all have in common is that idea that readiness to learn is based on relationships. If you ask a kindergarten teacher what she needs packed into a child’s backpack on the first day of school, most will say a love for learning, self-regulation and curiosity. All of these things are taught through relationships.
Because all children learn at different rates, early childhood professionals must meet each child’s developmental needs at their pace. We have to get to know them, to understand what they need and how they need to learn. There are very few children who enter second grade without knowing their letters and sounds, but each child should be given the respect and support to learn them in their own time and in their own way.
It’s just as important for schools to be ready for the children that are entering them as it is for the child to be ready for their first day of school. Change is hard for adults, and it’s hard for children, too! There are a few simple things we can do to ease the transition and boost children’s confidence:
- Because many early childhood classrooms have children going to multiple schools, it would be beneficial for children to know which of the friendly faces from their class they might see at their new school. Make a picture and name chart that lists all the children going to the same school. Children will see they won’t be alone!
- Attend open houses at the new school either as a class.
- Create a photo book of all the people that the children will encounter at their new school. This should include teachers, principals, office staff, custodial staff and the lunch crew. Once the photo book is created for each school the children will be attending, it can be kept in the book area year after year.
- Read picture books about children going to kindergarten and leave plenty of time for questions.
- Allow children to practice carrying items on trays during activities. The lunch room trays can be tricky to maneuver in the beginning of school.
Beginning kindergarten is a transition for everyone involved. Providing developmentally appropriate activities for children that build their confidence, their curiosity and their love for learning is the key to success… and you’re building on that relationship that will help them to be school-ready, too!