READY, SET, GO
Basic skills kids need for starting kindergarten
By Cheryl Walker
Copley News Service
Most children get excited at the thought of starting kindergarten. While it can be a fun and new experience for parent and child, it is a big step in a child's life that calls for preparation.
"Parents can do a lot to get their children ready for school by talking about it in a positive way," said Kay Guy, a reading specialist for a California school district. "The biggest challenges seem to be for children who have not learned to be away from their parents or relate well to other children."
It's important that children are ready for kindergarten, even if they have attended preschool.
Parents, grandparents and caregivers can work with their youngster by participating in a variety of activities, which will make the school experience easier and more fun.
A good starting place is literacy.
"Read to them every day," Guy said. "A parent reading to a child builds a warm, loving relationship, helps students learn the relationship of printed word to story, and increases creativity and imagination."
While reading together, stop and ask the child to predict how the story will end.
"When you are finished, help the child retell the main events of the story," Guy said. "Take your child to the library and let him or her select the books he or she wants to read with you."
Some of the basic skills a child should be able to do are know the basic colors and shapes, count to 20 and know some letters and sounds.
"It is helpful if children can write their first names," Guy added. "They should be able to sit for a story, use scissors and glue correctly, and be able to get along with others."
Some simple steps to take that encourage reading are to let your children see you writing letters and to place magnetic letters on the refrigerator that they are able to reach. They can move the letters around to form their name or group like letters together.
Other activities to develop math, social skills, safety and fine motor skills can be encouraged while doing daily chores.
To develop math skills, play games that use numbers - such as go fish or bingo. Hang a calendar and talk about the days of the week and have them count the days until a special event that they're looking forward to.
Talking and expressing feelings is a good way to build social skills. Children should have opportunities to play with other children, whether it's at home, church or preschool. This will help them to learn to take turns and share toys.
There are a number of activities good for developing fine motor skills. Children love to string beads or cereals such as Cheerios or Fruit Loops to make necklaces. Playing with puzzles, blocks, Legos and Tinkertoys are good for creativity as well as working with their hands.
With all the dangers a child can encounter, it's important to go over safety rules with them. Children should know their personal information - their full name, phone number, address and parents' names.
Make a point of going for walks with them, pointing out crosswalks and stop signs and practicing looking both ways - even when there is a stop light - before crossing the street.
Reading a book together about starting school is a fun way to introduce your child to the thought of beginning kindergarten. There are several to choose from, including "First Day Jitters" by Julie Danneberg (Charlesridge Publishing, $6.95).
Finally, teaching them good hygiene skills and healthy habits will help them take care of themselves at school.
"It's important to prepare children for school with a good night's sleep and a healthy breakfast," said Guy. "Strangely, some kids come to school not being able to attend to their own bathroom needs."
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