Setting Your Kindergartener Up for Success
by: Allison Liwanag, MS, CCC-SLP
Whether joining online, in person, or a hybrid, our kids are going back to school in the fall. It will look remarkably different from past first days of school. As the adults in these young minds’ lives, we are feeling a mix of concern, anxiety, and loss. However, we are still their first and ever-present role models for preparedness, hope, and excitement. For our babies who are no longer babies and are starting kindergarten, here are a couple of tips to set them up for success based on conversations IPT has had with your future teachers.
Mornings are busy in a classroom! Help your kids start off on the right foot by letting them put on and take off their own shoes, coats, and backpacks. Zippers, buttons, Velcro, or laces are some fine motor skills that you can practice at home during your daily dressing routines or when getting ready to go out. Practice that morning schedule now by having a station where kids plan, organize, place, and keep items they will need for the day, tomorrow, or during the week ahead, such bags, water bottles, sunscreen, and face masks.
Independent self care also includes hand washing, toileting, eating, and clean up. Particularly at this time, go through the motions and make sure your little one can do it independently. Steps to think about: can my child use different styles of soap containers? Can he or she rip paper towels? Can and do they wipe their own hands and mouth after mealtimes and then throw away items in the trash? Can my child pull up or down their pants and undergarments when using the bathroom? Being able to perform these tasks on their own both limits hands on contact and leads to more frequent opportunities to maintain hygiene.
Turn-Taking in Conversations and Play
Kindergarteners are transitioning from the Me Show to the We Show, and that can be a difficult bridge to cross. If your child is having issues in play, start by giving them simple roles and rules. For example, Jimmy is the chef, Sarah is the server and Tommy is the eater. Play for a couple of minutes before rotating jobs. Visual timers, countdowns, transition songs, and handing off objects are go-to IPT strategies to help these activities go more smoothly.
For our little ones dominating conversations, praising when they follow rules is simple, easy and effective, though it may be difficult to remember to implement them. It helps to praise them for something small right at the beginning, such as, “Great job looking at me while we’re talking!” and then tempering the frequency of paise as you go to more desired, targeted skills, “Thanks for letting me have a turn to speak,” or “Thanks for telling me two new facts!” At play dates, let your child know that you were observing him or her and that you were proud when he or she shared a toy, helped a friend, or let another child be a leader.
Hate to break it to you, kindergarteners. School is not a sprint; it’s a 13-year marathon. Teachers need you attentive, involved, and full of wonder for at least 15 to 30 minutes at a time. The skills you need to accomplish these tasks are sustained attention, reciprocity, responsiveness to language, awareness of personal space, and the ability to wiggle in place without annoying others. As a parent, you may be thinking: they can sit in front of screen, no problem! But it’s not the same! Instill these skills in your children by playing games—board games, card games, playground games, language games, scavenger hunts. Or, involve them in structured, dedicated tasks like making their bed, sorting through old junk in the basement, cleaning their room, cooking, art, experiments, or other inspiring hobbies. These not only build children’s executive functioning skills; they also provide enriching, hands-on experiences that foster their vocabulary, language, and pragmatic skills, which provides foundational knowledge that they will need in school.
Let IPT help you navigate these skills with our online group classes. We are currently offering a weekly Ready, Set, Grow 2-3 year old group and a flexible 3-week Kindergarten Readiness intensive in August. Contact Megan Kowalski or 847.412.4335 for more details.