Often times when people discuss whether a child is “ready” for Kindergarten the discussion is centered on academic skills such as letter recognition or counting. However there non-academic skills that are necessary for your child to have a successful start in school. One might argue they are more important than the academic skills often cited.
The ability to focus for 15 minutes — Many teachers have what is called circle time in the beginning of the school day. This may consist of singing songs, taking turns speaking, hearing a story or another activity. It requires that the child sit, focus and wait their turn to speak. Disruptions can throw the whole class off into a different direction. Take your child to a storytime activity at your local library or book store and observe his behavior to see if he is able to focus in a group setting.
The ability to let others shine — Classrooms can be crowded and teachers and the teacher’s aide cannot focus on every child every moment of the day. Children need to understand that they will not always be the center of attention. They will not get called on everytime the teacher asks someone to share, or every time they raise their hand, they will not always get picked to be the monitor. This may have an emotional impact on children who may be used to more attention. Discuss letting others shine with your child and let them know that other opportunities will arise and to keep participating in class.
Sharing and collaborative play — Students in Kindergarten will often have to share supplies like glue, scissors, crayons, space on an art project, ert. They will also need to take turns with P.E. equipment like bikes and jump ropes. You can teach this skill to your child while they are playing with a friend or sibling, or during a trip to the park. Teach them the importance of community property at the park, and encourage them to share toys with friends at home.
Controlling impulses — Children need to know how to keep their hands to themselves and respect others’ personal space. They also need to control impulses like speaking out of turn and resisting making funny noises or sounds when it is inappropriate.
Independence with self-care tasks — Things like zipping up a jacket, tying shoes, buttoning up a shirt, putting away a backpack, and cleaning up after themselves are very important. Teachers and their aides are not always available to help with these tasks and it can be frustrating for a child who is not able to complete them on their own. Work with your child with these types of activities and resist the urge to help them when they are struggling. Be patient and wait for them to figure things out on their own.
Recognition of authority figures — Children need to be able to follow the directions of adults who are not their parents, such as their teacher, teacher’s aide, cafeteria workers, etc.
No separation anxiety — Separation may not be much of an issue if your child has been in daycare and or pre-school prior to attending kindergarten, but it might be if this is your child’s first experience in a public or private school setting. A great way to facilitate a smooth separation is to use the “quick goodbye” technique. Children do better when a mom or dad drops them off quickly. Give a quick hug and say, “I’ll see you soon. Have a great day.” and leave. It is harder for children when parents linger in the classroom. Your child needs to know that you trust the teacher, and that he/she is safe and okay without you.
Bathroom etiquette — Of course children need to be potty trained, but they also need to be able to attend the restroom alone. They should be able to use the seat covers, wipe themselves, flush, lock the door, and implement good hand washing skills as well.