Kindergarten is an important time in a child’s life, signifying their start in formal education. While you as a parent may get teary-eyed at this milestone, you can make certain preparations to ensure your child has a great time at kindergarten. Not only that, but there are specific goals you can use to guarantee your child is ready for a successful future education.
Here’s a Brief History of Kindergarten
As you can tell, “Kindergarten” is a German word, and it was founded by a German man named Friedrich Froebel. Froebel was born in 1782 and lived a lonely life childhood. His mother died when he was a year old. His father cared for him, but the Froebel family moved constantly, and so young Friedrich Froebel found solace in the dense Thuringia forests of Prussia.
As Froebel grew older and observed the woods, he realized he had a skill for geometry and numbers, leading him to become an architect. Simultaneously, he was also caring for children. While Froebel was a certainly gifted architect, his creation of kindergarten had a more lasting impact on the field of architecture.
Froebel didn’t like how children were being taught in his day and age. There was an emphasis on rote memorization and repetition. Froebel had worked with Johann Pestalozzi, an education revolutionary whose motto was “Learning by head, hand, and heart,” which signified the importance of active and personal aspects of education.
Froebel sought to include some of Pestalozzi’s teachings into his first ever iteration of kindergarten. “Kinder” means child and “garten” means garden, mimicking Froebel’s view that children are like plants that should be nourished by teachers, who act as gardeners.
There was an emphasis on play and active learning, in addition to a series of gifts that were given to children by God, according to Froebel, to urge their development. These gifts are called Froebel’s gifts today.
Froebel’s gifts are a series of physical geometric shapes and toys to help children break-down the three-dimensional world. Children were to sit down at desks and have the gifts in front of them on gridded paper. A child would then go through a gift one by one and manipulate the toy, understanding how it worked and how each shape interacted with each other.
For example, the first gift would be given to a child as an infant. The gift is a small sphere of yarn with a string attached to it. The ball is small enough for a child to hold in their hand. The next gift, given to children between two and three, is a wooden cube and sphere. From there, the gifts would become more geometric and interactive with the shapes given before.
Children were given a cylinder after the cube and sphere. A cylinder combines aspects of a cube and sphere, teaching students that geometric shapes inform one another to give rise to structures seen daily. The final gift was clay, in which the child could use their imagination to create whatever image they wanted.
This structured educational system forced children to think abstractly at a young age using simple, reusable toys. While the Prussian government cracked down on new ideas around the mid-19th century and banned kindergarten in 1951, Froebel’s philosophies of education had a lasting impact on future generations.
Froebel had considered young women the ultimate teachers for young children, but when the government banned kindergarten, the teachers were out of the job. So they went to other towns and countries, spreading their ideas of kindergarten and Froebel’s gifts. Other German towns established kindergartens in 1953, and the practice even made its way to the U.S.
The first U.S. town to have kindergarten was Watertown, Wisconsin. It was taught in German to serve the German-immigrant community, but the practice of kindergarten soon dispersed throughout the U.S. into what we know today. Now, it is a commonplace practice in school systems everywhere.
While Froebel’s gifts certainly had an impact on education, some of the students in Froebel’s early classes went on to become major architects or modern artists. The great American architect Frank Lloyd Wright had modernist influences in his work thanks to his early exposure to kindergarten and Froebel’s gifts in 1867.
Why Kindergarten is Important
You can see more examples of how Froebel’s gifts manifested into the work of future architectures here. The impacts are clear. Kindergarten is a transformative time in a child’s life that leads to lasting effects in abstract thinking, perception of the world, and creativity.
Therefore, you must be wondering how you can make your child as prepared for kindergarten as possible. You don’t want to set them off on the wrong foot and potentially miss out on the important growth gained in kindergarten. Here’s how to properly prepare your child for this important year.
How to Prepare Your Child for Kindergarten
Most kindergarten teachers will say there’s not much extra preparation you need to do for your child to attend kindergarten — they just need to show up. However, there are some certain logistical things that should be in order before your child’s first day of school.
Ensure Your Child Can Be Away From You
If your child didn’t attend pre-school, they might have an issue of crying and grabbing your leg on their first day of school. It’s natural for children not to want to leave their parents, but such separation anxiety could impact how your child performs in school. They might not pay close attention to the teacher because they’re not in a mental state conducive for learning.
You can ease your child’s separation anxiety by staying gentle and patient with their needs but firmly setting boundaries. The best way to ease a child’s separation anxiety is to leave them alone then come back, showing that there’s nothing to worry about if you’re gone for a while.
This will be especially important on the first day of school. If a child knows to brush their teeth, to get dress, and to eat breakfast in the morning, you can save time and energy getting your child to do the necessary things to prepare for a successful day.
Further, you can develop routines in your child’s day to eat, play, educate themselves, read, and go to sleep. When you’re child gets in the habit of following routines, they’ll have an easier time getting into the routines established in kindergarten.
Keep Your Child Healthy
Some illnesses are unavoidable, such as a cold for flu. If your child is sick within the first days of school, they might be asked to stay home to avoid getting other children sick. If your child misses school, they might miss key lessons in how the school operates, miss forming friends with the other students or in some other way feel behind their classmates.
Keeping your child healthy is important for their own and everyone else’s wellbeing. When you can help it, ensure your child maintains a healthy diet and sleep schedule. Also, make sure your child is up to date on physical examinations and vaccinations.
Do Some Pre-K Prep Work
A kindergarten teacher will guarantee your child knows the alphabet and numbers 0-10 throughout the year, but you can give your child a head start by going through those with them too. Help your child recognize letters both uppercase and lower, point out numbers, shapes, and colors.
You can include a learning game in the drive to the supermarket by asking your child to count the number of red cars they see on the way there (or blue or green, or another color you decide). You can ask them to recite the alphabet before they play, or to ask you how many uppercase and lowercase letters are in a restaurant’s logo.
There’s always an opportunity to help your child learn and to make learning fun too. Such games will not only boost your child’s cognitive abilities but ease their transition into kindergarten.
If your child hasn’t met many other kids their age, they might find being in a room with them daunting. Facilitate your child’s socialization by taking them on playdates, going to a local playground, or signing them up for a child’s camp in the seasons leading up to kindergarten.
Not only that, but teach your child polite ways to meet and make friends. When they see a new kid, encourage your child to tell the kid their name and ask what the kid’s name is. From there, ask your child to listen carefully to what their new friend has to say and always to be polite, to take turns when talking, and to express feelings when your child is upset.
Encouraging socialization will not only make going to kindergarten much easier for your child but will help you recognize negative behaviors in your child, such as hitting, biting, and scratching other children. If you see these bad behaviors in your child, address them immediately, or else they may cause problems when your child goes to school.
Take Your Child to New Learning Experiences
Anything can be a learning moment for a young child. Therefore, get creative with where you can take your child to educate them, such as a local beach, library, museum, pond, anywhere. Taking your child to novel places will stimulate curiosity and a hunger for knowledge they can carry on into kindergarten.
Besides, your child will have interesting things to talk about with their classmates if they can explain how pond wildlife work. Kids love learning — especially from other kids!
Get Your Child Excited for Kindergarten
Kindergarten is an exciting time for your child’s life as it begins their ascent into formal education. It’s a new time to learn how to be good listeners and to also have fun and make friends. By telling your child a little bit of what they can expect, your child can not only get a sense of what they will do in kindergarten but gain enthusiasm to engage fully with it.
Getting your child excited for kindergarten is the best way for them to have a positive attitude going in. Though your child is around five or six years old, a positive attitude will make them more receptive to the teacher’s lessons and more likely to make good friends during the first few weeks of school. School is something to be excited about, and it’s never too early to instill that.
Be sure to go to your child’s open house for kindergarten. You’ll not only see the types of materials you should get for your child before classes start, but your child will be able to see the classroom, meet the teacher, and see the other students who will be there with them. If they have a buddy going into the first day, it can make the first day of kindergarten less scary.
How Should You Help Your Child in the Kindergarten School Year?
Once school gets into full swing and you’ve settled into a routine for your child, help them in any areas of growth they may be struggling with. For example, maybe your child has difficulties writing certain letters of the alphabet or getting past a certain number in counting.
Staying attentive and patient with your child will not only encourage them to keep trying when they face a roadblock but prevent your child from feeling stupid or dumb. Some students take longer to learn, and your child shouldn’t feel discouraged in such a case.
In addition to facilitating your child’s learning growth, help their growth in other areas as well.
Read to Your Child
Reading to your child is the best way for them to learn how to read themselves. Encourage them to read along with you and to point out words they have trouble pronouncing or understanding. Reading to your child can be a fun bonding experience for the both of you in addition to an educational one.
Set Up Playdates
If your child has gravitated towards one or two people in their class, ask the parents of those kids if it’s alright to have them over at your house. Having playdates at your house encourages your child to learn how to socialize further and allows you to see if there’s anything amiss that you should be concerned about.
For example, if your child is particularly rough with other kids, has a hard time sharing toys, or is mean to their classmates, you can intervene and correct that behavior in your child before it becomes ingrained. Often, children don’t know better, so it takes an adult intervention and telling the child why that behavior is wrong to discourage them from doing it in the future.
Give Your Child Educational Games
Children are spending more and more time behind screens. In fact, 91% of children are gamers, and the number of kids between two and five years old playing video games is growing.
Video games can be a beneficial way for children to focus on a goal-based activity and learn creative problem-solving skills, but you can use the time they’re playing video games to learn something too.
There are hundreds of free apps on any app store that can get your child learning, such as Duolingo for foreign language mastery. There’s also Flow Free and Spell Tower for a more cognitive challenge.
Get Your Kid Outdoors
On average, children spend about 4 hours outside each week. While you should certainly be facilitating their growth with educational games, force your child to drop their screens and play outside.
Playing outside not only allows your child to stay active and run around but facilitates an appreciation for nature. Kids love to get dirty, and there’s no better place to do that than by some local woods or a playground. Get your kids outside and get them curious — within reason of course.
Establishing a curfew and other boundaries teaches your kids to follow the rules while staying safe outdoors. Especially if you can find it within yourself to let your kids play outside unsupervised, your child can develop a sense of independence and “street smarts” while staying active.
Help With Homework
Sometimes a child doesn’t ask for help when they need to, so helping your child with their homework and ensuring your child knows everything they need to know on it guarantees your child doesn’t fall behind in their knowledge base.
Even if your child is gifted and finishes their homework quickly, still step in from time to time to make sure everything is how it should be. Tell your child that it is okay to ask for help, but don’t have them wholly rely on you for all the answers, as that’s damaging in itself.
Spark a healthy work ethic in your child’s approach to homework, but don’t make it seem as if they have to have all the answers all the time.
Talk to Teachers
While teachers will usually have some sort of official parent-teacher conference sometime during the school year, it may be wise to check in with the kindergarten teacher to ask how your child is doing in class. Your child may be neglecting to tell you everything that’s happening during the day or is simply forgetting to tell you some important information you should know.
By contacting your child’s kindergarten teacher, you can make sure everything is on track in your child’s growth. If not, you can still talk to your child and try to correct any issues arising during the school year while there’s time to do so.
End of year reports may be helpful information to address concerns in the following school year, but it doesn’t help you in the school year your child is currently in. Making an effort to guarantee everything’s okay with your child means you can a helpful guide in your child’s life without being too overbearing or controlling over your child.
The End of Year Goals Your Child Should Know After Finishing Kindergarten
By the end of the year, your child should be able to do the following items in the following categories:
- Sing the alphabet song.
- Say the alphabet outright.
- Know the names of letters.
- Know how each letter is pronounced.
- Know the other consonants sounds, such as “ch, sh, st, th.”
- Identify lowercase and uppercase letters.
- Point out spoken letters to their print counterpart.
- Know how many syllables are in a word.
- Know sight words.
- Recognize rhyming words.
- Read at their grade level or beyond fluently and accurately.
- Be able to recall important information from a text, such as who the author was, the plot, and form some sort of meaning from the text.
- Understand the beginning, middle, and end of a story.
- Retell a story with details.
- Understand spoken words and be able to spell them, such as “cat” or “ship.”
- Know when words rhyme.
- Understand short vowel sounds (“ah, eh,”).
- Understand long vowel sounds, like in weight.
- Recognize two letter blends, like in enough.
- Write all the letters of the alphabet, both upper and lowercase.
- Write their full name.
- Write common words like “cat, dog, boy, girl.”
- Write left to write and from top to bottom.
- Write simple sentences with proper spacing in between words.
- Be able to write from a prompt.
- Write the name of something they see in a picture.
- Write a word from how it sounds phonetically.
- Write numbers 0-100.
- Be able to count from 0-100.
- Count back from 20-0.
- Know even and odd numbers.
- Know numbers bigger and smaller than 20.
- Be able to do simple addition and subtraction.
- Be able to do simple multiplication and division.
- Spot two- and three-dimensional shapes.
- Organize things based on color.
- Organize things based on shape.
- Organize things based on size.
- Organize things based on texture.
- Differentiate between living and non-living things.
- Understand the seasons, things that are natural and human-made.
- Understand indoors versus outdoors.
Fine Motor Skills
- Your child should be able to use safety scissors safely and accurately.
- Be able to draw points on specific places, such as the eyes of a bear or the paw of a cat.
- Draw inside the lines of a coloring book.
Note: You can help build your child’s fine motor skills by helping them “sew” into a styrofoam or paper plate.
- Describe the similarities and differences between the past and the present (e.g., history versus now).
- Know where their school is on a map.
- Know where their country is on a map.
- Identify basic landforms, such as mountains, rivers, valleys, etc.
- Know how needs and wants, goods and services work.
- Understand and name their school rules.
- Show effective personal organization skills.
- Use time wisely.
- Maintains focus throughout activities and tasks.
- Listens actively.
- Follows school rules.
- Respects other students, the teacher, and their property.
- Adds positively to a group.
- Can set up an achieve goals.
What Should You Do if Your Child Didn’t Meet All These Goals?
It’s okay if there are a few unanswered goals, such as being able to identify basic landforms or if they’re a bit unorganized. Some are more important than others, such as being able to write their name or counting to a hundred.
If your child falls behind on important goals, consider tutoring them at home or hiring an external tutor for your child. That way, your child can get extra help outside of class when they’re still learning the relevant material in class. Your child won’t feel like they’re getting left behind and that they’re not as smart as the other kids.
If it’s the end of the year and your child still struggles with important goals, consider summer classes or tutoring sessions. The summer is an excellent time for your child to relax and play while also budgeting in time to educate your child that works for both your and their schedule.
Ask the school if they offer summer tutors for children, or if there are camps for kids to help them learn these basic and additional skills they should know. Search your local community for options as well. If anything, there should be basic, free programs online to help ingrain these crucial concepts into your child.
Many people have been held back in their lives with little consequence, as they needed the extra year to get a grasp on concepts they struggled with initially. However, if you don’t want your child to do that, you could invest some extra time outside of school or in the summer to ensure your child stays in the same grade as their friends.
Getting the Most Out of Kindergarten
Kindergarten is an exciting period for your child’s life, the time for kids to make new friends and learn fun concepts in school. While your child has fun, be sure they’re on track with their educating by monitoring essential educational goals. Once they’re in check, you know your child is ready for a successful first grade and subsequent school years.