by Dr. Clement Chau, director of learning, VTech, LeapFrog
Kindergarten is an exciting time for children but it can also be a stressful time of change, not just for little ones, but for parents too. Although each child is unique and develops at his or her own pace, most educators and experts agree that four key areas of development are essential for further growth and achievement in school.
To help your child prepare for Kindergarten and make a smooth transition, here are a few ways you can support these key areas of development at home:
Vocabulary and Oral Language Development: Encourage your child to communicate through words. Ask your child to tell you a story, and ask questions that encourage them to be descriptive. For example, if your child says a dog was chasing a stick, ask things like: What color was the dog? Did he run fast or slow? Was the stick big or small? In public, give your child opportunities to speak for his or herself or make requests. If kids are asked what they want to eat and drink at a restaurant, let them reply, even if you know what they want.
Social-Emotional Skills: Children will use social-emotional skills every day once they enter Kindergarten, whether they’re asking a teacher for help, being polite to classmates, or following instructions. Scheduling a fun, unstructured play date is a great way to let children interact with their peers, helping them learn to share and express themselves through play.
Small Motor Control: Developing small motor skills can be as easy as coloring with your child and cutting with scissors—anything that gets those fingers and toes moving! Other great activities include putting puzzles together, building with blocks, throwing, catching and kicking a ball, riding a tricycle, and outdoor activities like running, jumping, and climbing.
Attention to Sensory and Visual Detail: Paying attention to our senses is a mindful practice that can help prepare children for the academic world of kindergarten. Noticing textures, smells, and tastes, and using language to describe these details provide vocabulary development, as well as encourage children to compare and contrast their experiences. Offer a variety of snacks during snack time and ask your child to describe the food with words like sweet or sour, crunchy or juicy, rough or smooth. When playing with puzzles, ask your child to sort the puzzle pieces and then describe what the pieces share, such as colors, patterns, edges, or other visual details.
Another tool parents may find useful to help children learn core school and life skills is LeapFrog Academy, a new subscription-based, step-by-step learning program for kids in preschool through first grade. This new program guides children on fun learning adventures through more than 1,000 activities designed by educators. Through a well-rounded curriculum, children can explore a variety of concepts they will find in the classroom, plus everyday life skills such as communication, emotions and problem solving.
Don’t worry if your child hasn’t mastered all his or her letters, sounds, and numbers by the time school starts—children come to Kindergarten at many different levels. Their teacher will practice these skills with your child throughout the school year, but you can help by continuing to reinforce them at home.
Dr. Clement Chau is the Director of the Learning Team for VTech and LeapFrog. Along with Dr. Chau, the Learning Team includes subject area experts in early literacy, science education, and early mathematics who oversee the design, creation, and production of VTech and LeapFrog toys, books, and digital products. Dr. Chau received his doctorate in Child Development from Tufts University, with a specialization in early childhood education and technology.Prior to LeapFrog, Dr. Chau was a researcher at MIT, Children’s Hospital Boston, and Tufts University.