By Denise Yellen Ganot
You don’t have to pay someone to prepare your child for kindergarten.
Read with your child. As you read, practice good reading habits. Point to words to show one-to-one correspondence. Children will learn to recognize words over time. Read with expression. Read often. Expose your child to a variety of genres: poetry, humor, mystery, nonfiction, fiction, fairytales, etc.
Talk to your child. Though it is tempting to chat on your cell phone with your quiet child in tow, the personal interactions are what will engage your child and prepare him to be a member of society and learn about the world around him. Talk and sing while you stroll, shop and drive. Point out the world around you. Sing the ABCs. Play rhyming games while you walk through the park. You are having fun chatting and joking—all the while increasing your child’s phonemic awareness, social skills and love of music.
Count with your child. Give your child the math readiness skills he needs for school. Count with him while you feed him, walk up and down steps, shop and clean up toys. Count by twos, count backwards, count forwards. Show him a calendar, have him help you make Xs as the days pass. Tell him what day it is, the name of the month. Let him see you as you type and write numbers.
Write notes to your child. Include little notes in his lunchbox or on a memo board even before he can read. He will get used to seeing print as a means of communication, will want to write to you and will learn to recognize high frequency words. As time goes on, he can circle letters or words he knows. Eventually, he will be surprising you with notes when you least expect them. I do promise it will happen before kindergarten!
Un-schedule your overscheduled child. Children need unstructured time to play independently or with their peers without adult interference. Free play at home, on playdates or at parks is crucial to social development. This is one of the most important parts of kindergarten; it is where your children learn to be people in a larger group. Help them along by fostering independence through giving them some unstructured time each day.
And, most importantly…ENJOY YOUR CHILDREN. The more stress- free time you spend with your children, the happier all of you will be. You will be contributing to your child’s self-condence and happiness. A happy and condent kindergartener will go much further than a child who can recite all of his multiplication tables while singing Shakespeare in French at age three-and-a-half. Trust me.
Denise Yellen Ganot is the mother of three, an elementary school teacher and consultant.