If you’re a parent of a rising kindergartner, you’re probably wondering how you can best prepare your child for the big leap into elementary school. While every child grows and learns at a different pace, it may be beneficial for you to work on basic skills like letter recognition, sight words, and reading comprehension with your child this summer.
“Making it fun is essential so children have a positive connotation with learning,” says Barbara Garibaldi, a kindergarten teacher in Texas. Here’s how kindergarten teachers recommend you get started.
Letter Recognition and Sight Words
Being able to identify letters and sounds is very important for young learners because it's one of the first steps to reading. Learning sight words is also critical, and the summer before kindergarten provides a great opportunity for children to review them in a fun way.
Write letters or sight words on pieces of paper, play memory games, or hide sight word cards around the house for family scavenger hunts, says Garibaldi. One of her favorite games — one she played with her own child — involves taping words to the ceiling, turning off the lights, and using a flashlight to find the words! (Here are more strategies for teaching sight words.)
Karen Breitbart, a kindergarten teacher in Florida, also suggests children work on rhyming words and writing their first name with a capital letter followed by lowercase letters.
That said, don’t stress over making sure your child has these skills by kindergarten.
“I would hate to think of parents having their kids ‘cram’ during the summer,” Breitbart says. “Remember, if children can't do all of these things — don't worry! They will learn.”
When it comes to numbers, the first few weeks of kindergarten will likely be devoted to learning 1 through 20.
To prepare your child, work on number formation and review what greater than and less than means in relation to those numbers, says Garibaldi.
“Some parents will come in and say, 'My kid knows how to count to a hundred!'” Garibaldi says. “But it's not just about counting or reciting. It's about really understanding that if you get to 18, it's two spots away from 20 and that 18 is less than 20.”
One of the most effective and fun ways to boost reading comprehension skills is to read together as a family. Garibaldi suggests setting up a special reading area in your home to read to your child and select books with repetitive texts, like those from the How Do Dinosaurs series.
Don’t be afraid to reread these books over and over again this summer. “Repetition encourages comprehension, and it also improves reading fluency, vocabulary, and word recognition,” says Garibaldi. “So, if a child likes to read the same book over and over again, they’re still gaining knowledge from those experiences.”
Additionally, she recommends asking your child questions while you’re reading to them to help them make connections to the stories. Encouraging your child to create a movie in their minds or act out the stories is a great way to gauge comprehension and reinforce the story’s main ideas.
Fine Motor Skills
Fine motor skills are another area of importance — one where you may have to step back as a parent, even if your child is wielding a pair of kid-safe scissors. “Kindergarten is all about independence and giving them that power,” says Garibaldi.
Have your child practice cutting straight lines, zigzags, and lines to build the muscles in their hands. Don’t forget to also practice zipping zippers and buttoning buttons — your child’s teacher will thank you!
“Kindergarten teachers really appreciate any and all independent life skills,” says Breitbart. She suggests you teach your child how to hold a pencil, open a juice box, and tie their shoes, if possible.
Good hygiene should also be a focus — think using the bathroom independently, washing hands, coughing into elbows, and using tissues. Technology, too, can be worked on over the summer, says Garibaldi. Though kids often know their way around a tablet before kindergarten, understanding how a mouse and keyboard work is just as important.
The best way to promote social-emotional learning and growth is through reading. “Read, read, and read,” says Garibaldi. “Read books about different things and different scenarios.”
Seek out books that celebrate different cultures and diversity, and also books that cover kindness and compassion.
What's more, kindergarten readiness classics like Clifford Goes to Kindergarten are great ways to start talking about the expectations and emotions you and your child may have leading up to that first day of school. (Here are more books to get kids excited about kindergarten.)
“Help your child identify their emotions,” says Garibaldi. “Give them strategies to deal with these hard feelings, so they can self-monitor and be independent in the classroom.”
Find more expert-approved kindergarten books, tips, and resources at our guide to getting ready for kindergarten.
The resources below will help prepare your child for kindergarten this summer! You can find all books and activities at The Scholastic Store.