Summer is officially here or will be soon for most school districts across the country. For millions of mamas, that means already worrying about getting ready for next year. And if you're tackling summer with an incoming kindergartener, it might feel like you need to spend your entire season "prepping" for the official start of their education (beyond locking down a morning routine). But how do you really get your kiddo ready for kindergarten? According to one teacher on TikTok, You might just be overthinking this whole kindergarten readiness thing.
You've Googled. Read the parenting books. Hell, you've even resorted to polling friends and family on Facebook. So, you've heard all of the advice about ensuring your child enters kindergarten knowing how to write their name and having already nailed down dozens — if not hundreds — of sight words. However, kindergarten teacher Mrs. McKee (@Amesmc on TikTok) says that kids can easily learn some of the most essential kindergarten readiness skills over the summer.
In other words, try not to get too wrapped up about cramming an entire pre-K's worth of academic material into your kid's brain over the next three months. Instead, McKee suggests you focus on the following five things with your soon-to-be kindergartener.
1. Clothing and Bathroom Independence
McKee breaks this down even further with three clothing and bathroom tasks your kindergartener will ideally be able to tackle on their own. “Can they change from boots to shoes?” she asks. “Can they zip up their own coat? And can they wipe themselves after using the bathroom?”
Helping your one child zip up their coat may not seem like that big of a task each morning, but let’s not forget that teachers like McKee aren’t just caring for one or two five-year-olds. They’re trying to herd a whole classroom of kindergarteners to the playground, music class, or the pick-up loop. If they need to give full hands-on help to every one of their students each time they leave the classroom, it eats up a huge chunk of their day.
And, honestly, do you want a stranger wiping your kid’s butt when August rolls around?
2. Problem-Solving Skills
This is a hard one for a lot of us. You want to fix things quickly for your child, either to avoid a tantrum or to simply move on with your day in a more timely manner. But every time you intervene and “help,” you’re taking away a chance for your kiddo to learn to problem-solve.
“Let them struggle,” offers McKee. “There are going to be challenges in kindergarten. We need to build them up and teach them with a growth mindset so that they can approach those challenges without getting super upset throughout the day.”
3. Playground Etiquette
“Go to the playground as much as possible,” McKee says. “Believe it or not, most kindergarten problems happen on the playground with unstructured play.”
What’s that mean, exactly? Unstructured play is precisely what it sounds like: It’s free time. Even in kindergarten, your kids will do a lot of structured playtime in class where teachers will lead games, enforce rules, and assign tasks. On the playground, things are a little less... regulated. That means learning how to take turns on the two available swings, waiting for their time to go down the slide, or asking to share a teeter-totter. McKee suggests that, as long as no one is in danger, it’s best to sit back and let your little sweeties learn how to socialize and share on the playground without grown-up intervention.
4. Lunchtime Readiness
“Can they open all those things you’re going to pack in their lunch?”
Much like coats and boots, there will always be a teacher nearby who can help when your child gets stuck. Wouldn’t it be wonderful, though, if your child could not only rip open their own fruit snacks but also help their friends, too? McKee suggests (and you already know it’s true) that things like juice pouches, Go-Gurts, and apple sauces can be a challenge for tiny fingers to open.
Maybe start “packing” your kids’ lunches this summer and letting them get used to opening those things on their own. She recommends starting by opening a package halfway and then allowing your kiddo to finish. She also warns that you should skip tough-to-open foods altogether during the first week of school when your kiddo already has enough new and challenging experiences to overwhelm them.
5. Fine Motor Skills
“We have these little muscles in our fingers, and we need to build them up just like any other muscle in our body,” Mrs. McKee says. “And writing in kindergarten is exhausting for little hands. So, cutting, coloring, playdough, sidewalk chalk — all that stuff is going to build up those muscles and make writing and a lot of other activities in kindergarten a lot easier. And your kid’s gonna feel like a rock star.”
Got all that? Put away the worksheets, writing paper, and flashcards. This summer, help your kindergartener prepare by playing, eating, and practicing those day-to-day activities. Sounds like summer just got way more fun!
What else should kindergarteners know?
Before your little one dives into kindergarten, it's important for them to be able to verbalize their wants and needs. Their teachers will often ask them questions about how they’re feeling or their preferences. Kindergarten is also one of the first times they will be surrounded by their peers, so it helps if they know how to communicate, even if it’s just a little bit.
They should also know how to hold a book. Let's be clear; we are not saying a kindergartener should be expected to know how to read. We are saying they should be familiar with holding and interacting with books properly. This means they should know where the cover is, how to turn the pages, and how to differentiate the words from the pictures. The best way to do this is to ensure you and your kiddo carve out time for reading, so they can learn how it's done.
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