Ready, Set, Go... Kindergarten

WITF recognizes that transitions can be tricky. To help support families and children in the transition from preschool to kindergarten, WITF has partnered with community agencies and sponsors to create an annual event that provides families with useful information and gives the soon-to-be kindergartners a day full of fun and memories. WITF's annual August event, celebrates the newest, incoming kindergarten class, and typically draws over 500 family members and kindergartners to the Public Media Center. For more information call 717-910-2806, M-F 8am-5pm.

Helping Your Child Get Ready For The Big Day

Written by Debbie Riek, Education Coordinator | Jul 12, 2011 7:21 PM

There are moments that stay with you as a parent. I clearly remember waking each of my daughters up for their very first day of kindergarten. Looking at their sweet, sleeping faces, thinking of the adventure that is ahead for them and wondering, "How did this happen? Weren't they just babies?" Then the rush of new back-to-school clothes and a backpack, breakfast and photographs and then out the door to "big school" as my daughter Olivia called it. For many of us, it all seems to happen too soon and we want our child, who looks so small climbing on the school bus, to be ready. But what does kindergarten readiness mean and are there really things we can do as families to prepare our little one for this transition?

School readiness has to do with a child's ability to learn and cope with the school environment without undue stress. A child's intelligence plays only a minor role in their ability to make this transition successfully. "We all have a responsibility to respect this transition and to give our children every opportunity to approach this transition with confidence," says Randi Payne, principal at Mount Wolf Elementary School in Northeastern School District. Mrs. Payne says she shares several tips with parents every year about preparing their children for kindergarten including encouraging self-help skills and providing lots of opportunities for children to interact in structured and non-structured ways with their peers. When families read together, share experiences, and talk about those experiences, Payne says that they equip children with a background of experiences that children can then read, write, and share about in a school setting.

Payne highlights the value of routines to help children get ready for the kindergarten experience. As children begin to understand what to expect during the course of their day at home or at a preschool, they can begin to reflect on what comes next and start to understand how to prepare themselves for the next activity or part of their day.

Professionals in the early childhood field echo Payne's thoughts. Lisa Young, the School Age Coordinator at the York YWCA's Manchester Early Learning Center, stresses the idea that this transition process differs for every child based on the child's personality and temperament. "I think what helps is for families to encourage children to ask questions and to be curious," she says. She also stresses the importance of sharing books together and taking advantage of community events that may be free or of low cost to provide fun and interesting experiences for children. Pay attention to what interests your child and try plugging them in to real life experiences where they can learn more.

Begin talking now with your child about what they think kindergarten will be like, what they are excited about and what they are nervous about, too. Consider checking books out of your local library about kindergarten and read them together. Talk with your child and model good listening when they talk to you.

What should you do if you feel like your child may not be ready for kindergarten? Both Mrs. Payne and Ms. Young say take a deep breath and have the conversation with a school representative. Payne says, "I will invite families to come in and visit a kindergarten class and spend some time with their child." "If you aren't sure if your child is ready," says Young, "have the conversation. Don't be afraid. This is a brand new experience and they may not know all the academic parts of it yet but that is what kindergarten is for."

Mrs. Payne encourages families to take advantage of all the transition events that their school district may be having. She suggests that families contact their school districts and ask about the events and then go together. "Children need to hear from us that this is an exciting time and that we all think it is important and special," Payne says. These kinds of positive experiences help children associate school with good feelings and begin to trust the adults there.

So when it comes down to getting ready, what can you do? Read and talk with your child. Arrange some play dates with children in your neighborhood. Play a game together as a family. Enjoy the warmer weather with your child by visiting a local park, museum or zoo. You are helping your child be ready!

Published in Ready Set Go Kindergarten

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