Stressed out about your kid’s entry into kindergarten? Scouring the app store for resources to help your little one learn letters, numbers, shapes, and colors before school even starts?
That’s normal. But it’s not really necessary. We all want our kids to be prepared for kindergarten—and many of us turn to preschool and pre-K educational products hoping for an advantage. But the truth is, kindergarten readiness is less about the ABCs and 123s than you might think. What really makes for a successful start to schooling may surprise you.
We’ve rounded up the six most important things you can do to get your child ready for kindergarten, with suggestions for great media picks that may help.
Encourage a love of learning. While kindergarten may be your immediate focus, you’re really laying the foundation for lifelong learning. It’s more important for your child to enjoy learning than to master facts and figures. Nurture curiosity, encourage questions, support critical thinking, and model being a learner yourself. Try:
- Activities that teach concepts in novel ways.
- TV shows and movies that put emphasize curiosity.
- Games that call upon critical-thinking skills.
- Apps and sites with lots of problem-solving.
Help your kindergartner get along well with others. Much of school—and life—involves relating to and working with those around you. Kids who can share, take turns, play well with peers, and resolve conflicts are starting the game ahead. Check out:
- Movies, TV shows, and games that teach teamwork.
- Empathy-building movies, TV shows, books.
- Games that support kindness and compassion.
- TV shows with positive social messages.
Support self-control and planning skills. Young kids are just beginning to learn crucial self-regulation and executive functioning skills. Child development experts call this internal “air traffic control” — and it’s key to success in school. Even kindergartners have to manage a lot of information, avoid distractions, and carry out plans. Help your kid practice remembering a sequence (after breakfast, we brush our teeth, put our shoes on, and go to school), curbing impulses (grabbing other kids’ toys), and adapting when things don’t go as planned. Try:
- Movies and TV shows that promote self-control.
- Apps that can help kids stick to a routine.
- Computer-coding programs that help kids understand sequence, if-then relationships, and cause and effect.
- Activities that prompt kids to recognize and name their feelings.
Talk and read … a lot. One of the strongest predictors of later success in reading and other school subjects is early vocabulary — and oral language skills in general. Talk to your kids, use challenging words, describe what they mean, read to them, play word games, make up nonsense rhymes and stories together, teach listening skills, listen to them, sing songs — anything that emphasizes language. These may help:
- Quality shows that focus on literacy-building.
- Activities with built-in storytelling features.
- Books that play with language.
- Books that are especially great to read aloud.
Boost independence. Kindergarten is a big transition into a world of strange adults and peers, especially if your kid hasn’t had much preschool experience. But there’s lots you can do at home to set the stage: Teach kids to put away their things and to carry out basic routines independently. These picks can help your child prepare for the novelty — and inevitable separation anxiety — that school brings. Try:
- TV shows that encourage kids to try and try again when things don’t go as planned.
- Books with great role models for girls and boys.
- Apps that prompt kids to plan, think ahead, and be present.
- Movies and TV shows that teach the value of effective communication.
Provide opportunities to learn the three Rs. The “softer” skills above are core to kindergarten readiness. But if your kid’s showing interest, these cool tools can introduce the building blocks of reading, writing, math, and more. Try: