The transition from daycare or preschool to kindergarten is typically the start of formal, daily education for many children. This transition can feel significant, and because of that, it can sometimes feel overwhelming for parents and children alike. So, what can parents do to make the transition from preschool to kindergarten go as smoothly as possible?
A Parent’s Role
“There are lots of activities parents can do at home,” says Amanda Dillon, kindergarten teacher at Prairie Trace Elementary in Carmel and 2019 Stephen A. Backer Teacher of the Year. “Reading to children daily is at the top of the list. Playing board games and encouraging conversations during play time helps develop oral language. Turning simple academic activities into games are also ways to enrich children.”
Linda Foley, assistant director and 3s and 4s teacher at Meridian Hills Cooperative Nursery School & Kindergarten, says that even simple things, such as pointing out what you see as you go about your day, helps with growth and development.
“Make note of similarities, differences, sizes, shapes and colors,” Foley says. “Do this in everyday life, at home, on a walk, at the grocery. Verbalize what you are doing: folding laundry, planting flowers, cutting celery. Identifying your actions.”
Maureen Weber, CEO of Early Learning Indiana, notes that with the pandemic, some kids who would normally be in preschool and pre-kindergarten programs are not, and are instead staying home.
“They are missing out on that routine of getting up and going to school,” Weber says. “But there are many things that parents and caregivers can do at home.” The Day Early Learning website offers links to resources and activities that families can do with their children to keep the learning happening at home. You can find them at dayearlylearning.org/families.
There is no magic ball that will let you know when your preschooler is ready for kindergarten. But there are some signs that might indicate your child is ready for that next step. The Mayo Clinic lists the following developmental milestones as pivotal in deciding whether a child is ready for kindergarten success. These milestones include demonstrating a curiosity or interest in learning new things, taking turns and cooperating with peers, and following instructions. Fortunately, a quality preschool will help your child meet these important milestones.
At Meridian Hills Cooperative, for example, preschoolers work on building skills that they will use once they move on to kindergarten, but are also given the freedom to play, explore and learn at their own pace.
“There are more focused activities, but there is also more independence and freedom to create and explore,” Foley says. “The children have a long uninterrupted free play, which provides many opportunities for growth and development. We work hard on conflict resolution and helping children develop these skills. Having this long creative time is a perfect way for them to try out their new skills.”
Jill Schipp, principal of Prairie Trace Elementary School, reminds parents that “students enter kindergarten with many different experiences,” she says. “Not all students attend preschool, and kindergarten teachers are aware of that. Teachers assess the kids and meet them where they are academically.”
The Importance of Preschool
Weber emphasizes that one of the best things parents can do to help their child get ready for kindergarten is to enroll them in a quality preschool program.
“[Preschool] teaches them how to be ready for full-day school, gives them an idea of what school looks like, lets them collaborate with friends, and teaches them how not to give up when they’re faced with a challenge,” she says.
Indeed: These are all skills that will help set up a child for school – and also a lifetime of learning.