I was an Early Childhood teacher for a few years. It was hard and stressful yet rewarding and inspiring all at the same time. To be honest, it kind of reminds me of motherhood!
I worked mostly with little ones ages 3-6 and even taught Kindergarten for a year so I have a pretty good grasp on what teachers need your child to know before going into Kindergarten. You might think it’s all ABC’s and 123’s but I assure you academics are not the most important thing you have to focus on prior to starting school. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against academics but I just don’t feel it’s what needs to be at the top of the list. There are so many other basic skills to practice that we sometimes ignore.
Let me preface this by saying I am not an expert and I am only speaking from my personal experience in Education and working with so many different children over the span of 10 years. Of course all kids are different, learn at their own pace and some have very special needs. My list is geared towards the average student going into a general education classroom. I have a special needs son myself so I know how some of these basic skills can be quite difficult for kids like him.
Here are a few things I believe are the most important things children really need to know before starting Kindergarten.
1) Taking care of their own materials – kids should know what belongs to them and how to keep their belongings in order, both in their backpacks and in the classroom. You can help with this by setting up a small school area in your home and filling it with supplies they will use in the classroom, that is if you’re not already homeschooling. Take the time to teach your child about organizing their supplies and how to take care of them. This really makes a difference and helps prevent lost items. When I was teaching I spent so much time really getting the kids to organize their stuff and by the end of the school year they were pros. I could always tell what parents helped with this and which ones didn’t.
2) Bathroom Independence – prior to entering Kindergarten, all children should know how to use the restroom properly and completely independently. This is such an important skill and sometimes parents overlook it because they think they will learn it in school. One way to get your child to wash their hands long enough is to sing the alphabet song twice while washing!
3) Scissor skills – this is by far the most important skill any Kindergartner needs to master. Cutting with scissors is essential for fine motor development that will translate into writing skills throughout the school year. When I taught kindergarten, almost everything assignment involved scissors and I noticed many of students didn’t know how to hold them correctly or had trouble cutting in straight lines. You can start practicing scissor skills as early as 2 years old with play-dough scissors and play-dough. It’s important for children to know the basics prior to kindergarten so they can just jump right in with the lessons.
4) Self-feeding skills – this doesn’t just mean to be able to feed themselves. Children need to be able to hold their own trays in the lunch line and walk to their table, choose the food they want, put the straw in the milk or juice and then actually feed themselves. It’s a big process! You can help your child by letting them serve themselves and walk to the table with their plate as well as pouring their own drink in their cup. It might make a mess in your kitchen at first but it’s worth it in the end when they can do it all by themselves!
5) Book Knowledge – this might sound strange but lots of kids enter school and it seems they’ve never seen a book before. You might spend a ton of time reading to your child but it’s also important to teach them how to hold a book, and go over the parts of a book. The public library is a great resource for this! You can help your child by taking weekly trips to the library, getting them their own library card and checking out some books to read together. Before diving into the book, go over the different parts and how to take care of books. It might sound like something silly and obvious but trust me when I say, not all kids know these things naturally and it’s good to take the time to show them.
With these skills your child should enter Kindergarten like a champ and ready to take on the school year. Now, it’s completely okay if they start school and haven’t totally gotten these skills perfectly because they are children after all and it may take them some more time and practice. The point is for you, the parent to start working with them at home making the transition to school a lot smoother. Believe me, your child’s teacher will thank you!