School Readiness :: What Should I Be Doing to Help My Young Child Be Prepared?

Disclosure :: this post is sponsored by The Parenting Center at Children’s Hospital.

School Readiness :: What Should I Be Doing to Help My Young Child Be Prepared?

The idea of “readiness” is often misunderstood by parents as a challenge to “teach” the building blocks of academic learning to get children ready for a classroom. Actually, early learning is not as much about making sure your toddler can name her colors or your preschooler can count to 100. But there are important skills you can work on before your child enters school.

The National Education Association divides readiness into four areas: academic, social, independence, and communication skills. In my experience with parents and teachers seeking help with children struggling in PreK and K classrooms, it is not academic skills that cause the biggest problems. Those can be taught in a group setting. What children need is the ability to get along, focus, and perform as an individual in a group.

Children build communication skills by exposure to a variety of interesting languages and they practice by listening and responding in conversation. From a very young age, parents should make sure to talk and read with their children. Even before they can respond with words, use plenty of narrative and creative language. Talk about feelings and ideas – yours and your child’s. Beware of using too much correction and direction in your communication with your child so the love of language builds.  That way, your child is ready to talk about her thoughts and feelings and ideas.

Of course, not everyone can talk at once! Your child needs age appropriate social skills to be able to take turns, follow directions, and participate in whole group and small group activities. Consistent routines at home will help your child get used to following a schedule. This also builds a sense of stability. Rules and consequences that make sense will help your child prepare for the limits of the classroom. Give your child opportunities to practice being with other children his age and encourage positive behaviors without focusing too much on unwanted behaviors. For example, if your child hits or grabs, help him “replay” the exchange in a way that satisfies everyone: “Use your words,” works best with a child who is angry; “Let’s find a second toy,” is effective when two want to play.

You can’t go to Kindergarten! Help your child feel more independent and confident by encouraging self-help skills. Make sure she has clothes that she can put on herself and that she practices toileting and hand washing on her own. Invite her to participate in planning the day or packing for a trip to the park. Listen to her ideas and follow through on them, evaluating what worked and what didn’t with interest.

Finally, when it comes to academic skills, PLAY! Children learn skills through interactive, engaging experiences with room to create and explore. Create or seek out space for your child to play without so many NO’s – messy play needs space, active play should be free from hazards with natural limits like doors or fences. Encourage learning and mastery by reading and playing with your child and then talking about what you did and what might come next. Incorporate the basics, like colors, letters, and numbers in your play and make sure your child recognizes his own name.

Want to know more? The Parenting Center has some opportunities coming up!

The School Fair and Kindergarten Readiness Forum is on Monday, October 7th, from 6-8:00 pm in the Children’s Hospital Conference Center. Come at 6:00 to hear from a panel of experts about admissions, testing, and expectations. Stay to walk through the open house and talk to representatives from 20 schools – public, charter, private, and independent. More information is on the website HERE.

We are also offering two sessions called School Readiness: What does my child need? for parents who want more ideas to prepare young children to be successful learners. Each session is free, but preregistration is required, call 896-9591 or register online at Join the class at East NO Regional Library on Wednesday, October 16, from 6-7:30 pm, or at Norman Mayer Library on Tuesday, November 12, from 6-7:30 pm.

Any questions about this or any other parenting concern? Give us a call!

About Jenni Watts Evans   

Jenni Watts Evans has been involved in early childhood education and development from many angles. Beginning in the classroom as a preschool teacher, Jenni moved into advocacy work and adult education as a parent counselor at Child Care Resources of Agenda For Children, where she helped parents find quality child care and trained teachers of young children. Jenni joined the staff at The Parenting Center in 2002 as a Parent Educator and Program Manager. She has two daughters.


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