Registration and screening dates for prospective kindergarteners are approaching, but preparation for the transition to school is something that should already be under way.
“The more time that we can spend with our kids, doing those everyday things and discussing them, the (better) prepared they’ll be for kindergarten,” said Angela Dunn, curriculum supervisor for the Warren Local school district.
A “kindergarten teachers’ wish list” posted on the Marietta City Schools website provides a rundown of skills children should have to make the most of their entry into class. Among them are knowing how to share and take turns, sitting quietly and listening to a story, poem or nursery rhyme, writing their first name with only the first letter capitalized and identifying basic body parts, colors and some letters and numbers zero to 10.
Preschool can help develop some of those skills, but, whether a child is in preschool or not, parents can as well.
Educational concepts can be incorporated into everyday activities like cooking or even putting away groceries, Dunn said.
“If you sort by fives, you put things away by color, you count cans, those are great math skills,” she said.
Reading to children every day is recommended by many local educators, but Dunn said it needs to go further than that.
“Sometimes what we forget to say is if you read yourself and you set that example, that makes all the difference,” she said.
Waterford Elementary kindergarten teacher Chrissy McCurdy said educational concepts can and should be imparted to children in enjoyable ways.
“You want to make it as fun as you can; they don’t even realize they’re learning,” she said.
There are numerous websites and smart phone apps parents can use with their children to work on these concepts in enjoyable ways, as well as educational television programs on channels like Sprout, Disney Junior and Nick Junior, McCurdy said. But technology isn’t a prerequisite for learning activities; parents can create their own word or number flash cards or make up a game, she said.
“Even silly games – let’s say you’re on the way to the mall, on the way to the beach, pick a color and see how many red cars you can see,” McCurdy said.
And educational concepts are not the only area in which parents can help their children get ready for kindergarten. Having a regular schedule, especially a bedtime, is important as well.
Dunn said a family doesn’t need to attempt to replicate the school day in advance but simply get their child used to routines.
“If in their environment at home there are routines, there are protocols and procedures … that definitely helps them prepare for the routines at kindergarten,” she said.
Instituting that bedtime was one way Waterford resident Sara Hvizdzak, 30, helped her son Brandon make the transition to kindergarten. A few weeks before school, it was set at 9 p.m.
“Once school started, we backed it up to 7:30,” Hvizdzak said.
Thanks to preschool and her longtime habit of reading to him, the adjustment to kindergarten was easier on Brandon than it was for her, Hvizdzak said.
“It’s very stressful, worrying about him being on his own for eight hours, figuring out the buses,” she said. “But he did very well.”
Part of that is because of his teacher, McCurdy.
“My child absolutely loves her,” Hvizdzak said. “It’s easier when he wants to go (to school).”
McCurdy said those at Waterford try to get children looking forward to school on the day of the kindergarten screenings.
“They’re all in the classroom. … We kind of watch how they interact with us,” she said. “It’s a fun day. … So when they leave, they’ve got a smile on their face and they can’t wait to come back to kindergarten.”
Marietta City Schools introduces incoming kindergarteners to their schools through Story Time sessions at the individual buildings, during which parents also receive information they’ll need, said Marcella Swaney, director of student services for the district.
While each district does things a little differently, they all have some general requirements in common. To be eligible to enroll in kindergarten, a child must be 5 years old by Aug. 1 of the year they’re entering school, although early enrollment can be considered on an individual basis.
In addition, parents of incoming kindergarteners in all local districts need to have certain documentation available when they register, including a birth certificate, immunization record and custody papers, if applicable.
“If you have all those things when you bring your child to register, it’s going to make it so much easier,” Swaney said.