Winter is a good time to work on early-learner skills

Indoor play can equal indoor learning

Indoor play can equal indoor learning

Kids entering school for the first time are expected to do more than just play and since we’re headed into the winter season, it’s a great time to work on early-learner skills, and start to gently ease your preschooler into thinking and learning like a kindergartner.

(Kids can strengthen their hands by playing with playdoh, and using spray bottles to mist the flowers.)

In the book, Straight Talk About Schools Today, author Judy Molland writes, “Today’s even greater emphasis on meeting standards has increased academic demands on the lower elementary grades, reaching all the way to kindergarten.”

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What’s needed and what a parent can do asked kindergarten teachers across the country what skills they looked for in kindergarten readiness and what activities parents can do to foster that skill:

  • Enthusiasm toward learning - Look for subjects your child is interested in and set aside time each day to let him investigate that world, and allow him to ask his endless questions. 
  • Solid oral-language skills - During reading time, discuss the pictures and what the characters are wearing, and what the animals are. Just talking about what your child sees around them increases vocabulary.
  • The ability to listen - Parents should be reading to their kids, and after the story, ask the child to tell in their own words what happened which increases their comprehension and vocabulary.
  • The desire to be independent - Encourage self-help skills, and give your child simple two-step instructions, like “take off your boots and put on your sneakers.”
  • The ability to play well with others - When playing with your child, use statements like, “I’m glad to share that toy with you” and encourage sharing with others. Help your child understand the feelings of others, and discuss the steps to settle disputes.
  • Strong fine-motor kills - Your child’s hands must be strong enough to master coloring, cutting, pasting, and holding a pencil; these are skills needed to write the alphabet. Ask your child to mist your flowers with a spray bottle which exercises the muscles for using scissors and writing. Or give your child a pipe cleaner and Cheerios and have them make bracelets, which works their pinching skills. 
  • Basic letter and number recognition - Most kindergarten teachers believe it’s their responsibility to teach the letter sounds and how to write, but children should be able to count to 10 and identify numbers 1 to 5. Practice letter recognition with alphabet magnets on the fridge.

“It isn’t a mastery of all these skills,” says Julie Riess, director of the Wimpheimer Nursery School and Infant Toddler Center at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie. “It does mean having some basics that are there in place enough for the child to have successes while learning and not be overwhelmed by failure and frustration.” And she adds, “This does not mean drilling a child or doing workbooks or computer games, but engaging the child in a relationship that offers hands on learning in meaningful ways.” 

Grace McCoy is a writer and editor who lives in the Hudson Valley.