Guest column: use summer to prepare your child for success

The first day of kindergarten is a big step for young kids. And families can help that transition by using the summer before the big day to help kids develop basic skills to prepare.

“Children heading to kindergarten need a little extra reassurance about the changes they can expect when they start school,” said Patricia Gonnie, Director of Exceptional Student Services at Window Rock Unified School District. “Speaking positively about yours or siblings’ experiences with making new friends, meeting new teachers and allowing your child to ask questions will help reassure your little one.”

Below are some fun, everyday activities from First Things First to help your family have a fun, easy transition to kindergarten:

Read with your child at least 20 minutes per day. Try books that repeat words; involve activities like counting, identifying colors, objects or letters; or, are about things your child likes. Ask questions like, “What do you think happens next?”

Talk with your child everywhere – at home, in the car, at the store. Make up stories or songs about your outings.

Writing begins with scribbling. Give your child safe writing tools to play with, like crayons, chalk or markers and blank paper. Ask your child to tell you about their drawings.

Schedule a visit with your child’s doctor and dentist. Health problems make concentrating difficult.

Teach your child how to use the bathroom by themselves, to wash their hands after going to the bathroom and before eating, to blow their nose and sneeze into their elbow.

Before the first day, talk with your child about what to expect during the school day and types of after-school activities they may be involved in. The more details kids know, the less anxious they will feel.

Rehearse for the big day with test-runs of the new routine, which will include:

Choosing what to wear the night before.

Waking up with early to have plenty of time to get ready.

Eating a healthy breakfast.

Walking to the bus stop and talking about boarding and where to sit.

Practicing how to open parts of lunch, whether it’s a carton of milk or a small bag of carrots. Remind them that teachers or lunch staff can help if needed.

Even if you don’t have kindergarteners this year, it’s never too early to start helping kids prepare. Children who have positive early childhood experiences tend to score higher on school readiness assessments and are more likely to do well in school and graduate.

By turning everyday moments into learning moments, we can send our young kids to school with the skills — and the love of learning — that will help them succeed in kindergarten and beyond!

About First Things First – First Things First is a voter-created, statewide organization that funds early education and health programs to help kids be successful once they enter kindergarten. Decisions about how those funds are spent are made by local councils staffed by community volunteers. To learn more, visit firstthingsfirst.org.

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