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Getting Ready for Preschool and Kindergarten

For many parents across the country, this fall will be their first time sending a child to school. Early childhood education has evolved, and educators and researchers are looking at this first introduction to formalized education as a crucial time for students.

There is more direct instruction in math, reading and writing, with schools utilizing a detailed curriculum to address skills. Story time now accompanies formal reading instruction. In some schools, play time may now even accompany formal social skills lessons. Although September seems far away, now is the time to start preparing your child for his or her first school experience.

Here are some simple and fun ways to get your child ready for preschool and kindergarten_

Preschool

ReadingRead to your child every day. Exposing your child to a variety of age-appropriate books will foster a natural love of reading and curiosity about words. Don't worry about teaching phonics or decoding skills - the ABC song will suffice for now. Children will often ask what a word or sentence says. Feel free to tell him, but do not press him to repeat or try to sound out words. Keep in mind that at this age your child should have a natural excitement about words and should not feel he is being "tested' when enjoying a good book!

Teach your child to recognize her name. You can make a special sign for her bedroom door or write her name in the cover of her books. Learning names and common words (such as store names) is a first step in recognizing and pronouncing letters and sounds.

Math Count objects while playing with your child. Use his blocks, books, or other toys and model one-to-one correspondence. Counting "one, two, three blocks!" naturally introduces this important math skill to your child.

Expose your child to basic shapes. When reading or watching a TV show, point out circles, squares, or triangles. Many TV shows targeting the preschool-age child highlight these shapes as well as rectangles, hearts, and diamonds. It is very easy to find these shapes in the environment and you can create a scavenger hunt with your child to locate these common shapes in the environment.

Social Skills Schedule play dates or spend time playing at the park. Sharing, turn-taking, and waiting are all skills your child will need to enjoy a positive social experience in preschool and may be practiced when engaging with peers.

Develop a daily schedule and stick with it. Keep in mind your soon-to-be preschooler likely needs 10-12 hours of sleep a night, so get him to bed on time at night. Wake him in the morning, have breakfast, and get dressed even if you are not planning to leave the house right away. These morning activities are clear ways to signify the start of the day for your child.

Check with your child's preschool in regards to its rules on potty training Many schools require children to be potty-trained before starting in September. If your child is not yet fully trained, you have plenty of time this summer to work on it!

Kindergarten

ReadingHelp your child practice writing his name, especially if he has shown an interest in it. Have him write the first letter then you can write the other letters. You can also write his name first then have him trace it. Keep in mind constant practice or repetitions may discourage your child and frustrate him, ultimately delaying his acquisition of this skill. Make it fun and only practice if your child shows interest.

Point out words that start with the letter of her first name. Although she may not be aware of it, she knows the sound that letter makes and it will be easier for her to associate items with a sound she already knows. Say "Grace, do you want grapes for snack? Grapes sounds like Grace!" See if your child can think of another word that starts with the same sound. If she has trouble, provide an example so she does not get discouraged and the game continues to be fun!

Math Ask your child to retrieve various quantities of items for you. Have him help you set the table for dinner and ask "Please get four napkins." This is a fun and easy way to practice counting, a skill that will be targeted throughout Kindergarten.

Model sorting items for your child then ask her to practice. While playing, say "I'm putting all the cows over here and the pigs over here." Then ask your child to put all the chickens together, and so on. Grouping or sorting is an important pre-math skill for your child to attain.

Social SkillsMaintain a schedule. If your child just finished preschool, he is likely used to a routine that involves getting up in the morning and getting ready for school. Maintain a similar schedule this summer so back-to-school time doesn't involve early morning chaos!

Give your child orally-presented directions. For example, tell your child "Get the blue block and give it to Daddy." Having your child follow one and two step directions prepares her to process language as well as comply with known instructions, skills necessary for kindergarten.

When playing with peers or siblings, ensure your child is taking turns with toys and games. Your child could be in a class of 20 children come September and will have to take turns with materials and toys every day. Preparing him to wait will make it easier for him in his class in the fall.

The most important thing you can do to prepare your child for school is to make learning a fun and natural family activity. Drills and repetitious practice of skills at this age may develop stress and fear of school in your child. Introducing simple math, reading, and social skills to your child will get him started on the path to success!

Jennifer Cerbasi teaches at a public school for children on the autism spectrum in New Jersey. As a coordinator of Applied Behavioral Analysis programs in the home, she works with parents to create and implement behavioral plans for their children in an environment that fosters both academic and social growth. In addition to her work both in the classroom and at home, she is also a member of the National Association of Special Education Teachers and the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Jennifer is an educational consultant who works with families and educators to establish healthy and productive routines in the home and school. Adapting behavior management techniques she implemented for years as a special educator, she helps parents and teachers adopt these tools to fit their unique needs and priorities. Jennifer also speaks to parent and education groups on current topics in education and children's health. Visit www.jennifercerbasi.com