Get your little ones ready for kindergarten

School may be out, but for kids starting kindergarten this fall, now is the time to get ready for the classroom, both physically and emotionally. By helping your child master a few practical key skills, you can give your children the confidence they need to succeed on their first day of school —‚ and every day after.

Kindergarten readiness includes both practical skills that children will need to succeed, as well as social emotional skills that will help them successfully function in a classroom of peers. And parents play a key role in preparing them for that first day from establishing a routine and easing their fears to holding a pencil and listening to directions. Helping them develop these skills is the most important job a parent can have.

First 5 California wants every child to enter school healthy and ready to learn. And now is the time to work with them before the big day arrives.

Talk with me
It’s crucial for children to have the confidence and ability to use their words. Parents can help develop language skills by having frequent conversations with their children and encouraging them to use words to express their feelings and reactions to the world around them. Read to your child for 20 minutes every day and talk about the story, the characters and what happened first, next and last. Sing songs and read stories or poems with rhyming words to expose them to different sounds as they build their vocabulary.

Your turn, my turn
Preschoolers are just beginning to understand the concept of sharing. Parents can make sharing fun by teaching cooperative play, like completing puzzles or building a block tower together. As you’re building the block tower, walk through the concept of sharing by saying, “Now it’s your turn to add a block and then it will be my turn.”

Use positive reinforcement to encourage sharing. When you see your child sharing with someone else, point out how she made the other person happy and give her a hug.

1,2,3 – Count with me
Children entering kindergarten can typically count to 10 on the first day of class. Teach your child to count by using everyday objects like blocks, buttons, soup cans, even your child’s fingers and toes.

Parents can make counting part of your daily routine by asking your child to count the number of plates needed for dinner or the number of steps you’re climbing together. Or tell your child to pick out “two” books to read before bedtime.

My name is…
Children are expected to be able to print their first name. Start by teaching children how to spell their name when they’re toddlers. Start by pointing out the first letter of their name whenever you see it. You can also play word games by saying, “Your name starts with ‘T’ like tiger. What else starts with that letter?”

Your child can practice writing their name with their finger to get the feel of the letters. Try spreading shaving cream or pudding on a cookie sheet for fun practice. You can also work with your child on the correct pencil grip by encouraging your child to use their thumb and index finger to pick up small objects like O-shaped cereal with their fingers. This will make your child practice the proper pincer grip. Playing with play dough can also help develop muscles in the hand that are needed for writing or cutting.

Listen well to learn better
Kids learn best when they’re taught to actively listen when the teacher’s speaking to them. Improve your child’s listening skills by encouraging them to repeat directions back to you. This will force them to repeat instructions in their mind and then act on them. Use multi-step directions to build your child’s attention span by outlining multiple tasks for them to do, such as “Pick up your toys first, then grab your coat.”

Try playing games with your child that require listening and following simple directions. Games like Simon Says or Red Light, Green Light are fun games that require listening and following directions.

For more information on early learning and development contact First 5 El Dorado at (530) 622-5787 or visit

First 5 California, also known as the California Children and Families Commission, was established after voters passed Proposition 10 in November 1998, adding a 50-cent tax on tobacco products to fund education, health, childcare and other programs for at-risk children ages 0-5 and their families. We are the only state affiliated Commission working to improve the quality of California’s preschool programs. We fund programs that educate parents, grandparents, caregivers and teachers about the critical role they play during a child’s first five years. Since our creation, we’ve supported millions of families with programs and services designed to help more California kids grow up healthy and ready to succeed in school — and in life.

Special to Village Life


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