Starting kindergarten is a big milestone for you and your toddler. It is an exciting time of learning and growth. I want to share some kindergarten readiness tips from the perspective of a teacher. I do value fostering early literacy and numeracy skills however, sometimes I think it can be easy to place too much importance on these. There are so many everyday toddler activities, like getting dressed, preparing food, or tidying up, that we miss opportunities to develop our child’s independence
To begin with, I will highlight and share some practical skills that young children sometimes struggle with when first starting school. It can really make their transition into kindergarten a lot smoother if they have started practicing some of these at home.
The Kindergarten Day.
Firstly, let’s look at how your child will predominately spend their day. In kindergarten, most of your child’s school day will be working with and relating to other children. Therefore, it is heavily reliant on social and communication skills as they learn to:
- Cooperate and collaborate on projects.
- Talk and play with peers.
- Share toys and taking turns.
- Follow directions.
- Work alone.
- Relate to an adult other than parents.
How to Prepare for the Transition.
You can create opportunities for your toddler to practice these skills at home. Even if you have an only child, you can encourage them to share their toys and take turns with you. During various toddler activities, you can verbally give your child specific one-step and two-step directions and encourage them to follow through.
Another suggestion is to arrange for your toddler to spend some time with relatives or close family friends. This often helps them develop independence and their ability to communicate their needs with other adults.
Lastly, you could investigate ‘toddler activities near me’ for further opportunities for socialising and communicating with others. Note, always follow the covid-19 restrictions and guidelines in your local area. Ideas include:
- Museums or zoos
- City Park or community programs
- Local play groups
- Storytime at libraries or bookstores
Kindergarten Readiness Tips.
In kindergarten, your toddler will be expected to make decisions and complete tasks without your guidance. It can be a little daunting, but you can help with this transition by beginning to step back a little and let your child take on a little more responsibility at home. Simple things like encouraging your toddler to learn how to care for themselves and manage their own things will help your child.
Manage their own things.
This means they can recognise and be responsible for their belongings. It is important to practice these skills below with the actual items they will use in kindergarten. Skills to practice:
- Open and close their lunch or snack box
- Put on their own coat and hat.
- Place shoes correct feet
- Open and close their backpack.
- Put the backpack on and off.
- Hold books the right way and turn pages.
- Pack away toys.
- Use the toilet independently. This includes closing the door and wiping themselves.
- Wash their hands with soap and dry them.
- Use cutlery (fork and spoon specifically).
- Throw their rubbish in the bin.
- Cough / sneeze into their elbow.
- Wipe their nose with a tissue.
Note: If required by your school setting: Use a mask appropriately with minimal assistance.
Besides learning to be aware of others, children who begin kindergarten need to be aware of themselves. Things like:
- Recognises their own name (especially their first name).
- Verbally says their full name, age, and address.
- Concept of personal space.
- Ask for things they need (bathroom, water food etc).
Kindergarten Readiness is a Process.
As you can see, kindergarten readiness in not easy to define. The skills listed above develop over time, depending on the individual child’s abilities and experiences. I urge you to view it as a process — providing toddler activities at home that prepare them to learn, develop their independence and confidence. I want to emphasise, the skills I have highlighted are things to work on over time. Your child does not have to have mastered all of them before beginning kindergarten.
Furthermore, I implore you to gradually introduce your child to activities that often take place in a kindergarten. You model skills such as sharing, negotiating, conflict resolution, sportsmanship, reasoning, and effort. Toddlers and children in general, are always watching and learning from those around them, especially their parents. Hence, through play, children have the chance to emulate what they see and practice a wide range of skills. Check out my book Simple Activities for Toddlers and my Instagram for ideas of toddler activities that develop your child´s foundational skills.
Preparing Your Toddler For The First Day.
Firstly, routines help children learn, make them feel safe and in control of their world. Start developing a daily routine a few weeks before kindergarten begins. Kindergarten readiness routines include bedtime and mealtimes. In other words, wake up, eat, and go to bed at the same times each day.
Secondly, talk about your child’s kindergarten with enthusiasm and listen to any concerns your child expresses. Encourage them to ask questions.
Finally, read books together about starting kindergarten can also help your child know what to expect. While reading, point out how to hold a book (right-side up with the spine on the left) and the orientation in which we read the words (left to right).
For further information about toddler development 4-5 year olds, visit this Australian parenting site.
About the Author.
Lisa Forsythe is a teacher, a mum and author of the award winning book, Simple Activities for Toddlers. The best part is her book is full of fun activities you can easily do at home, predominately using recyclables and craft supplies.
Lisa holds multiple Australian university degrees in education. She wants to share her educational knowledge with others to impart the importance of developing a child´s foundational skills before they´re ready to enter formal schooling.