Kindergarten is an exciting time for everyone – little kids are getting their first taste of Big Kid School and parents are getting their first taste of full days to themselves and their own work again. But even kindergarteners need support for them to keep up and keep interested in their budding educational lives.
So, how do you support kids this young without overwhelming both them and yourself?
- A great starting place is to get to know their teacher(s) as best you can. Understanding where their teacher(s) is coming from and what they’ll be assigning can give you a real leg-up when it comes to time management and helping your kids triumph over homework.
- Be certain to know how your child is performing in comparison to the rest of his or her class. If your child is falling behind, don’t delay in getting them involved in some extra tutoring. There’s a lot for a kindergartener to handle at this age, learning not only new social skills and rules, but new academic knowledge and skills as well. It’s thus important for a child’s self-esteem and skills development that they generally keep pace with their classmates.
- Another great starting place is to establish habits and patterns of homework/reading time with your kids (at the kindergarten level, of course, “homework” should really only take about ten solid minutes of concentration). Make it clear when it’s study time and when it’s not. When you’ve got that free half hour or hour to sit down with kids and talk with them about what they’re learning, make sure they know precisely what that time is for every single day. This way, homework/reading/discussion time isn’t something “extra” that they have to sit through each day; instead, it’s another scheduled, expected part of their day just like lunch, school, and recess.
- Know when your child is struggling with something and keep in a friendly, open dialogue with their teachers regarding this and all related developments (though also be careful not to helicopter or overwhelm teachers as this can often shut down relationships before they’ve been built).
- Know what’s expected of your child for kindergarten before they enter it. According to Scholastic, most kindergarten teachers are expecting their students to come into class on the first day already having developed strong oral-language skills, listening skills, an ability to play well both by themselves and with others, strong fine-motor skills, and basic recognition/comprehension of numbers and letters. So, be sure to talk and work with your kids on these skills in particular before they take that big first step into the classroom.
- Nurture your child’s enthusiasm for learning outside of class. There are many terrific ways to do this. Kindergarten is only the very beginning of your child’s life of learning and discovery, so make sure they understand that education is more than just “work,” but that it can be fun, rewarding, exciting, and invigorating as well. So, start teaching by example!
- Try reading with your kids regularly; playing educational games with them; taking them for walks where you introduce them to different road signs, colors, and conversations; playing board games; introducing them to new people; introducing them to scouts and other team activities; and/or taking them to museums, zoos, and aquariums.
And don’t forget to encourage your kids to take responsibility for themselves and to explore things for themselves, to ask questions, and to talk about new ideas. These kinds of conversations not only expose your children to more vocabulary words and ideas, but also help them develop important character traits such as curiosity, determination, and courage.