The day begins with table activities, perhaps practicing in a handwriting notebook or learning the letter of the week. Once everyone has arrived, students sit together on a large rug for the morning meeting where they discuss the weather, the date and see what the day has in store. Next, they transition into learning centers with activities such as math, journaling, art, reading or floor games, all of it allowing for self-direction and independence within the framework of a schedule. That’s how the morning unfolds for kindergartners at Mason Preparatory School in Charleston.
For children coming from the less structured environment of daycare or preschool, kindergarten can be a very different world — but there are things that parents can do to help them prepare for one of the biggest transitions in their early educational experience.
“Years ago the transition could be difficult for children, because so many of them did not attend daycare,” says Roseann Jordan, assistant head of school at Mason Prep. “The transition coming into kindergarten as far as being able to leave Mom and Dad is easier now. But there are things parents can do to make the transition easier, so children will feel more comfortable in their new environment.”
How can parents help their children prepare for success in kindergarten? Jordan offers these seven tips:
1. Read to Them
In addition to sparking imagination, reading to children helps them develop a love of words and an understanding of the natural flow of language. Parents asking questions of children while they read to them “develops good comprehension skills,” Jordan says. “And children get a sense of what it sounds like to talk. So when they hear their parents reading, there’s a great deal of learning occurring.” Visits to the local library are a great place to start.
2. Encourage Independent Play
Children love to attract their parents’ attention, but they also need to feel secure in their own abilities. “If we’re always entertaining them, they don’t know how to do that,” Jordan says. “It’s really important for children to understand that playing by themselves is a healthy thing. It helps them settle their minds, teaches them to be creative, and teaches self-confidence.”
3. Promote Quiet Activities
Teaching children to play independently can be fostered by participation in quiet activities — which Jordan says can be anything from playing with Legos and Play-Doh, to coloring and drawing and finger painting, to even jumping rope outside.
4. Teach Respect
Begin by respecting the child’s thoughts and feelings, and then setting an example for them to follow. “When you’re out, you’re being kind to people, you’re asking politely, you're showing them how to wait in line and take turns,” Jordan says. “They’re watching us as adults, and they mimic us, so it’s important to be a good role model for your children.”
5. Instill Confidence
It’s easy for parents to sometimes do too much for their children, not realizing how capable they can be. “We don’t want to enable them,” Jordan says. “Often as adults, we forget how much they can really do if we teach them and allow them to try things.” One idea: assigning age-appropriate chores. “Show them how to do the task and then let them know your expectations are for them to complete it daily,” Jordan adds. “When children know the family needs them to help the house run smoothly, it instills confidence.”
6. Teach Them to Wait Their Turn
Children always want to go first. But as one kindergarten teacher at Mason Prep tells her students, the train needs the caboose just as much as the engine. And once again, setting a good example is key. “If the parents are getting angry and frustrated when they’re sitting in traffic, then the children will become frustrated too,” Jordan says. Teaching children patience begins with the parents showing patience themselves.
7. Help Them Listen
This is much easier said than done when it comes to small children, of course. But begin by looking them in the eyes when you talk, Jordan suggests, and being specific about what you want from them. “Instead of saying, ‘Pick up your toys,’ give them a specific toy to pick up,” she adds. “Ask them ‘Tell me what I said,’ and have them repeat it to you. If they repeat it back to you, you both can be assured of what they're being asked.” And build on the process — when they can do one thing you’ve asked them to do, give them two tasks at the same time.
Mason Prep enhances the kindergarten experience by creating an environment conducive to individual attention, with two teachers and just 18 students in each class. Kindergartners are not set off by themselves, but are an active part of the wider school, which offers classes up to eighth grade. The small student-teacher ratio allows teachers to better get to know children and their parents, helping to make learning a team effort that allows classroom guidance to be reinforced at home.
That parental involvement is important beforehand, too, in helping children develop the skills they’ll need to succeed in their new environment. “You’re giving them a toolkit,” Jordan says. “You’re giving them important tools that are setting them up to come to school ready to perform. You’re building self-confidence so that when they’re faced with challenges — and there are going to be challenges — they think, ‘I can do this, because I was able to do something like this before.’”
Interested in learning more about kindergarten at Mason Prep? Contact the school at (843) 805-6015, or via email at email@example.com. For further information, visit the school’s website at MasonPrep.org.