Any way you add it up, going to kindergarten is exciting. Another one of those firsts, along with all the rest, from first tooth, first step, first words, first time howled all night and now, First Day at School. This new first is the beginning of more than a decade at school–maybe as much as two decades, or even three!

Children starting kindergarten in 2015 will graduate in 2028. When you look at the numbers you can really see why we say that children are 20% of the population, but 100% of the future.

Back to kindergarten. As a kindergarten teacher, it’s quite understandable that I think kindergarten is a pivotal year at school. Here are just three reasons why it is so vital:

Others think it’s essential, too, and research bears this out, internationally.

The impact of kindergarten goes beyond high school to affect our communities. One report estimated the financial cost “…due to children entering kindergarten unprepared for school success…” to be in the millions of dollars! (Wilder Research, The cost burden to Minnesota K-12 when children are unprepared for kindergarten, Prepared for the Bush Foundation; Chase, Coffee-Borden, Anton, Moore, Valorose, December, 2008)

All over the United States and Canada, children are entering school unprepared for the learning opportunities and challenges. Unfortunately, children who start behind often stay behind and may not even finish school. No wonder parents and caregivers are concerned with the issue of readiness. Preparing children for success in school needs to start at home, and at daycare, too. And, we all know that parents are children’s first teachers. But what to teach kids and how to teach them? When are children ready to learn different concepts? Where to start? What to do if a child is struggling? What indicates possible developmental lags? Why do some things seem easier for girls and some seem easier for boys?

There are so many questions. It’s only natural to have questions about how best to prepare children for school and how to support them along the way. Here are three of the biggest.

The answers to these questions will be based on general guidelines and developmental milestones but…
Each child is an individual and there are differences for all children. Even though children will follow a similar pattern of development and maturation, each child has unique strengths, and weaknesses, and needs.

Maybe the biggest question of all though is…

Would you like the answer? Absolutely!! Parent involvement is one of the biggest influences on a child’s success in school. Parents really are children’s first teachers. Or, if that sounds too scary, parents are children’s first learning coaches.
90% of the brain develops by the age of 5. That’s the big chunk below. The small bit is after kids get to school. Just think of the circle as the brain.

But before you panic, as parents and caregivers you have already accomplished a great deal. Learning to use language is an enormous challenge. It requires the stimulation of millions and millions of words and massive brain connections. That is a huge start.
There is a proverb from Confucius.

While I disagree with Confucius, that failure is the sure outcome of lack of preparation, I can attest that preparation certainly makes whatever we are doing easier. The ‘whatever’ in this case, is preparing our children for kindergarten. And we can start the preparation right now, no matter the age of the child. When we start small, we start smart.
For a child, going off to kindergarten is much the same as an adult going on a trip to a new country. The difference is, instead of a suitcase, it’s a backpack. When we travel, we prepare. We make a list and pack our bags.
Preparation promotes readiness and readiness contributes to success. (Barbara Allisen)
Part of the preparation is turning over rocks, watching the paths that the raindrops leave on a window, and singing silly songs with parents and caregivers. We reveal the world of adventures with the language in stories and books, explore the mystery of numbers, and unlock trunks with treasures of science and discovery, when we play and learn with our children. We hold the special keys to a magical kingdom that we can open up to our children by building on those playful and teachable moments that are part of every day. What a gift for us to use and to give to our children!

May the time you spend getting ready for kindergarten, be filled with the wonder of discovery, the fun of creating and the joy of play. Learn and play.

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