How to Prepare Your Child for Kindergarten

As a Kindergarten teacher, I have seen what tremendous difference parents can make in their child’s education even before they step foot in a school for the first time. Kindergarten has changed a great deal over the years, and now with the implementation of new common core standards across the country, the expectations are being raised yet again. Kindergarten students are now expected to read, write various types of papers, add, and subtract, among many other things, by the end of their first year of school. As you can imagine, when a child comes into Kindergarten with little or no knowledge of letters, sounds, and numbers it is very difficult for them to meet these growing expectations.

Parents can give their children a great leg up by working with them ahead of time on learning their letters, sounds, and numbers. When your child comes into Kindergarten with the knowledge you’ve imparted they will be more confident, feel less pressure, and have the tools necessary to excel in their education. And, as a bonus, your child’s teacher will be very grateful for the work you’ve put in!

Letters: Recognizing and Writing Them

One of the most important things you can teach your child before Kindergarten is the alphabet, and I don’t just mean the song. Students need to be able to recognize and name both capital and lowercase letters out of order. One great way to teach letters is to focus on one letter a day, or even a week if you have the time.

You don’t have to teach the letters in order, but you can if that works best for you. If your child doesn’t know the letters in his or her name that might be a good place to start. If your child already knows some letters, just focus on the ones he or she still struggles with. There’s no right or wrong way to do it. Just do what works best for you and your child.

To help you get started, here is a list of activities you can use to help your child learn to recognize and write letters. You don’t need to use all the activities with every letter, although you might want to start with 1 and 2 for each letter. But, then just try out different activities. Find out what works best for your little one, and go with that.

Model

Start by showing your child the capital and lowercase letter you’ll be focusing on. You might want to write it big on a piece of paper, whiteboard, or sidewalk in chalk. Ask them if they know what letter that is. If not, tell them the name of the letter and which is capital and which is lowercase, i.e. “This is a capital J. This is a lowercase j.”

Trace

Then, have your child trace over the letters (with their finger, a pencil, a crayon, a marker, sidewalk chalk, etc.) while saying their name.

Shaving Cream

Put a small amount of shaving cream on a table, have your child spread it out with his/her hand, then have him/her write the letter of the day in the shaving cream with his/her finger. Then, they can “erase” their letter with their hand and do it over and over again. Kids love this activity and it cleans your table too as a bonus.

Paint Baggies

Squeeze a little paint into a ziplock bag. Zip it up and then tape the top so no paint can come out. Then, have your child write the letter with his/her finger in the paint through the bag.

Letter Hunt

Go on a letter hunt to find your letter of the day. Have your child look for the letter any and everywhere… in magazines, books, signs, billboards, clothing, etc. You could even keep a count of how many of each letter your child finds. Make it a game. See which letter wins. Have him/her try to find more of this letter than they did the last one, etc. You could even get out a little magnifying class for him/her to make it more fun.

Letter College

Have your child find the letter of the day in old magazines or newspapers and cut them out. This will help with fine motor skills too as a bonus. Then, glue them on a piece of paper to form a large letter. You might help with this by drawing a large outline of the letter for them to glue their small letters into.

Flashcards

Maybe not as “flashy”, fun, or original as the other ideas, but flashcards are still really effective for some kiddos.

Tactile Letters

You can buy tactile letter cards (see the Amazon link below) or try to make your own with sandpaper. But, it helps some kids to feel the letters as they trace them with their fingers.

Skin Writing

Have your child roll up his/her sleeve and “write” the letter of the day on his/her arm with his/her finger.

Fun Writing

Let your child choose a medium he or she particularly enjoys, whether it is sidewalk chalk, dry erase markers on a whiteboard, paint, or just a set of fun markers or crayons, and just write the letter.

Rainbow Writing

Have your child trace over a letter with multiple colors.

Sounds: Matching a Common Sound to Each Letter

If you’re teaching your child to recognize letters, you can teach the common sound that letter makes while simultaneously teaching letter recognition. The following activities can be done right alongside the letter activities for your letter of the day or week.

Introduction

After introducing your letter of the day ask if your child knows what sound that letter makes or what that letter usually says. If not, tell them that letter’s sound and have him or her repeat that sound.

Sound Hunt

Go on a sound hunt, having your child look for things that have that letter’s sound in them. Be sure to accept anything with that sound, even if it isn’t spelled with that letter. For instance, a cat would work for the sounds c and k. Keep a tally of how many things they find with that sound in it. Compare from day to day to see which sound they find the most and if they can beat the number they found the day before.

Sound Lunch or Snack

Have a meal or snack made of only items containing (and preferably starting with) the sound of the day. Have your child guess what is on the menu or if you’re doing a sound a week instead of each day, have your child help create the menu.

Sound-Craft

To tie a letter to its sound you can do a craft with your child, making that letter into something that begins with that sound. For instance, start with a large capital H on a page. Then, add a roof on top and a door at the bottom, making it into a house.

Alphabet Chart

Alphabet charts are great because they put a keyword with each letter reminding students of the sound that letter usually makes. In my classroom, we read our alphabet chart by saying the letter name, the sound, and then the keyword. So just reading an alphabet chart is one great activity to link letters to their sounds, although there are tons of other activities you can do with them!

Jump Up

Have your child sit down. You say either a sentence or just random words and have your child jump up every time they hear the sound of the day. Mix it up, with some words containing the sound and some not. Words beginning with the sound they’re listening for will be the easiest for them to hear. When they seem to have that down add some words with the key sound at the end or in the middle of the word and see if they can hear it there. To make it even more challenging you could ask where that sound was in the word; beginning, middle, or end.

Beginning Sound

Linking sounds to letters is a very important building block for both reading and writing, but students also need to be able to distinguish sounds in the words they hear to become great writers. So, sometimes you may just want to say a word and ask your child to repeat the sound they heard at the beginning of that word. You could also put a few items out of a table and have your child point to the one that begins with a certain sound. For instance, put out a fork, knife, and spoon. Then ask, “Which one starts with /n/?, Which one starts with /s/?, “Which one starts with /f/?”

Numbers: Beginning to Build Number Sense

In this module we will focus on numbers 1-10. Your child will learn more numbers in Kindergarten, but if they have down 1-10 before entering Kindergarten that will give them a good foundation on which to build.

For recognizing and writing numerals 1-10 you can use any of the activities found in the “Letters” module. This is very important. So, please use some of those activities to help your child learn numerals 1-10. But, simply recognizing and writing numerals is not enough. Your child needs to understand what each number means. So, that will be the focus of this module.

Here is a list of activities you can use to help build your child’s number sense:

Number Hunt

Give your child a number and have him or her find that many items in your house. Then, have him/her count the items to make sure they found the correct number of items.

Finger Patterns

Play games with your child to help him/her learn the finger patterns for numbers to 10. You could say, “Give Mommy 5 bunny ears.” and they would hold up 5 fingers behind your head. Then, give their favorite stuffed animal some bunny ears and ask your child to name how many bunny ears you gave their animal. Keep going back and forth with different numbers as long as your child is enjoying it.

Comparing

Make two groups of items; i.e. 5 spoons and 2 forks. Have the student count how many are in each group. Have him or she tell you which is more and which is less. Then, you could reverse it and have him/her make two groups and tell you which has more and which has less.

Count, Count, Count

Have your child count the number of steps it takes to get to his/her room from the kitchen, how many cars, dolls, or stuffed animals he or she has, how many beans he/she has left to eat, etc. Your child can count just about anything. Encourage him or her to do that!

Dice Game

You need two dice: one for you and one for your child. Each of you rolls your die. Have your child count each die and then say which one is larger. The person who rolls the largest number gets a point. If you play enough your child will begin to just recognize the dot patterns and not have to count anymore, which is great too. Learning those patterns can help with things like addiction. For instance, they can visualize that 2 on this side and 2 on that side make 4.

Handwriting

Different schools teach handwriting in different ways. So, I’m not going to say much about this topic. Instead, I would just advise you to ask the school your child will be attending what type of handwriting they teach and if you could have a copy of what they use to teach children to form their letters. We have a path of movement sheet at our school with instructions on how to form each letter.

Non-Academic Lessons

Preparing your child academically for Kindergarten is important, but preparing him or her in other ways maybe even more beneficial! Kindergarten is a time when students have to learn to share attention with 19 other kiddos, be responsible for their actions, behavior, and property, and get along well with others. You can help your child with this process by teaching them many of these valuable lessons before they even begin thinking about school. Here are some of the key non-academic lessons you can help teach your child to prepare him or her for Kindergarten:

Responsibility

Does your child have to keep up with his or her jacket, lunchbox, toys, etc? If not, start turning over some of those responsibilities to him or her. If not, you may find yourself at school searching for lost coats more times than you’d like.

Patience

It can be very difficult for a 5-year-old to wait for his or her turn, but with a 20 to 1 ratio, waiting is something all kids will have to learn to accept. They’ll have to wait their turn to talk, volunteer, read their story, share their work, slide down the slide, etc. You can help with this by modeling patience in line at the grocery store or waiting at the DMV. Talk to your child about how sometimes waiting is just a part of life and we have to learn to be patient because we’re not the only ones who want to do this or that.

Respect

Help your child by teaching him or her to respect not only you, but also other adults, other children, their property, and even themselves. Talk about how important it is to listen and obey when you or their teacher asks them to do something. Teach your child to treat other children the way they want to be treated. Teach them to take good care of their things and to make good decisions when it comes to taking care of themselves.

Daily Care Needs

Teaching your child how to tie his or her shoes, zip up his or her pants or jacket, correctly wash his or her hands, and blow his or her nose will not only help them take care of their needs, it will also build their confidence and sense of responsibility. And again, his or her teacher will be very grateful! 

About the author: Diane H. Wong used to be a teacher for ESL students. Besides, she is a writer at DoMyWriting, where, everybody can ask towrite my essay, so she prefers to spend her spare time working out marketing strategies. In this case, she has an opportunity to share her experience with others and keep up with advancing technologies.

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