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Ready, Set…SCHOOL!

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As the start of the new schoolyear approaches, more moms are asking themselves, “Is my child ready for Kindergarten?”

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These days, children can start going to Early Childhood Programs as early as a few months old. However, some people still consider the beginning of “real school” as the moment their child saunters through his Kindergarten Classroom Door for the very first time.

Depending on the school you choose, Kindergarteners can be between the ages of four to five. There are many types of Kindergarten Programs to match different family lifestyles, preferences, beliefs and educational goals. Once parents find the school of their choice however, the tables get instantly spun around, as they have to instantly examine their child under some imaginary microscope to see if he’s all set for school. Most schools have entrance exams or do assessments before accepting children and parents stress over whether their child will make it or not.

Basically, the school is looking for is a certain level of preparedness. So for those seriously considering putting their child in a Kinder Program, here are some quick points to ponder and things you can do to prep your child for school.

1. Is your child an enthusiastic learner?

As you take him around with you (supermarket, park, clinic), do you notice if he seems curious and eager to explore his surroundings? Or does he often appear uninterested or focused on just one specific thing (like his iPod)?

You can help develop an enthusiasm for learning by limiting exposure to TV and gaming devices, while setting up more time to play games with other children, read books and tinker with construction toys (blocks, train tracks) or pretend toys (dolls, cars, tea sets). Wherever you go, point out details, such as pictures in books or things in your environment (from patterns on the wallpaper to number of cookies in a jar). Encourage him to ask questions and help him as he tries to find the answers.

2. Is your child able to express herself verbally?

If she’s to be left in a group of 15 other children, will she be able to articulate her needs, raise questions, share her thoughts and observations, and equally important, be understood by her teachers and peers? Or is her vocabulary limited, speech delayed, or voice inaudible?

Engage your child in daily conversations, where you talk about what she is doing, or things going on around you. Introducing new terms as you converse is a good way of expanding her vocabulary. Talk about feelings, so she knows how to verbalize the way she feels. When she talks, listen to her, make her feel that what she has to say is important to you, that way she will be more likely to express herself in the classroom. If you notice a speech delay, talk to your pediatrician about having your child assessed by a Developmental Pediatrician. By age 4, children are quite conversant. If your child still isn’t and can’t be understood by other people, then she may need some speech therapy.

3. How is your child’s attention span?

We’re not talking about being able watch a video or play on the wii for hours…Instead, can he sit through a story and answer questions about it afterwards? Or does he fidget a lot, interrupt constantly or leave your Reading Spot midway through the story?

Some entrance assessments include finding out how well a child can follow instructions and focus on what the teacher is saying. To be able to do this, he must first develop listening and comprehension skills. Helping your child sit down and listen to a story is one great way of extending his attention span. If you realize your Storytelling skills are as exciting as watching paint dry, then spice it up by using different voices or adding a prop or two (hats or puppets). Also, choose books with topics that interest him. Other activities you can do together to help him sit in one place are: arts & crafts (painting, playdough) and fine motor exercises (puzzles, stringing). Another thing worth a try is enriching your child’s play time with your fun ideas (like making stories about his trains getting stuck in magic mud or plotting ways to save Barbie from the hungry dinosaurs). By adding stories to his play, you prolong it and possibly get him more engaged and excited. He will more likely add other details to your story, and end up focused on the game much longer than you expect.

4. Does your child display some form of independence?

Is she able to manage some toileting needs on her own? Care for personal belongings? Dress & feed herself? Or is she overly dependent on the adults around her to take care of her needs? Is Yaya always hovering over her, ready to take over at the first note of your child’s whimper?

There are things that she will have to do for herself in school. Giving her more responsibilities at home – such us caring for her toys, packing away, washing her hands, preparing her snacks, choosing her clothes, and going to the toilet are just some ways of helping her learn to be in charge of herself.

5. How sociable is your child?

When you go to parties or other social gatherings, does he hide in one corner, instantly make friends, or immediately make enemies?

Getting your child to be socially savvy means allowing him many opportunities to interact with children his age – either through preschool, play dates or trips to the park. Process together the positive and negative behavior you observe in your child and his playmates, by praising the good and discussing alternative actions or possible consequences for the bad. This may help set your child’s moral compass in the right direction.

6. Is your child ready to write?

Can she hold a pencil with the proper tripod grip and print forms clearly? Or does she grasp the pencil with her whole hand and lightly mark the paper?

In many kinder classes, there are a lot of writing activities to be done. While she may not be expected to write words on her first day, the teachers will look at how she grips the pencil and makes forms on her paper. They normally expect children to print their own name. To prepare your child, offer a lot of fine motor development activities such as working with puzzles, exploring playdough, pinching clothespins, managing buttons, drawing, and painting.

7. Does your child display some interest in Letters and Numbers?

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Can she recognize some letters and numbers? Does she notice them in her environment? Does she know what they are for? Or is she completely oblivious to the presence of letters and numbers in her surroundings?

Get your child interested by relating them to the names and ages of your child or people he is close to. Pointing out letters in a billboard that can be found in his name is a good start, or reading numbers on license plates can be fun games on a long, dreary trip. It is much easier for children in a Kindergarten room if they already know many letters and numbers. They pick up other lessons more easily and seem to carry themselves with a little more self-assurance.

To help you get a better sense of your child’s readiness, I recommend a visit to the school. Watch the interactions among the children, and the students and their teacher, and see if you can imagine your child thriving in such a scene. Better yet, ask if your child can do a trial class to see if she can be a happy participant who seems to enjoy this setting.

For some children, Kindergarten may be their first schooling experience, so their parents naturally want to make sure they are well prepared. In the end, we all just want our children to love their first school, because we know this could set the stage for how he will feel about school, teachers, classmates and learning for the rest of his life.

Teacher Thumby Server-Veloso, MA has been working with young children since 1993. She graduated from the Ateneo de Manila University with a degree in Interdisciplinary Studies focusing on Psychology and Communications. She has a Masters Degree from the University of the Philippines in Family Life and Child Development. She is the co-founder and Managing Director of Toddlers Unlimited, Manila’s premiere learning center that offers high quality, developmentally appropriate programs for children 6 months to 5 years. She is the proud mother of Lucas and Verena.

Toddlers Unlimited
Address: 4F Festival Supermall, Filinvest Corp. City, Alabang, Muntinlupa
Telephone: +632.850.4064
Mobile: +63.917.898.2557
Email: toddlers.unlimited@gmail.com
Website: http://www.toddlersunlimited.com
Facebook: Toddlers Unlimited

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