Guest column: Summer the ideal time to prepare children for kindergarten

While most students think of summer as a break from learning, for young kids entering kindergarten, summer is the ideal time to instill the skills that will make the transition to school smoother.

"The children who can write their name and know some songs, can count to 10 and know many of their letters are the children who come to kindergarten feeling confident. We want our children to like their first school experience to set the tone for being lifelong learners," said Natalie Mann, kindergarten teacher at Williams Elementary-Middle School.

Today's 5-year-olds are expected to arrive with basic academic and social skills so they are prepared on day one to start learning to read, write and do basic math. Here's a sample from a list - taken from a national survey of kindergarten teachers a couple of years ago - of skills that can help ease the transition to kindergarten:

• Child pretends to read. Understands that words are read from left to right. Looks at pictures and tells a story.

• Recognizes own name and tries to write it.

• Counts to 10 and can count objects.

• Pays attention and follows simple directions.

• Can repeat sequences of numbers, sounds and parts of stories.

• Controls a pencil and crayon well. Cuts shapes and pastes them on paper.

• Is potty trained. Dresses self. Brushes own teeth.

• Recognizes authority. Shares with others. Works independently.

Parents can use fun everyday activities to help their kids develop basic skills to build on and prepare them for kindergarten success.

"Please read to your children talking about rhyming words, beginning sounds, and the sequence of events in the story. Listen to your children, they love your attention. If you are on Facebook please like First Things First as they have great ideas to keep your family learning all summer." added Mann.

First Things First has a tip sheet to help parents prepare their kids over the summer for their first day of school. Tips range from reading and playing every day and ensuring kids get all their check-ups to practicing new routines and reducing first day anxiety. Additional resources can be found at www.azftf.gov in the Parent Section under Early Education.

The number one tip: read, talk, sing and play with your kids.

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 children to school with the skills - and the love of learning - that will help them succeed in kindergarten and beyond.

Learn more at visit wwwReadyAZKids.com.

Cynthia Pardo is the Parent Awareness and Community Outreach Coordinator with First Things First, Coconino Regional Partnership Council

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