Although it’s hard to imagine thinking about the next school year when this academic year is barely half over, that’s exactly what families with children entering kindergarten next year are doing as the kindergarten registration process is kicking off in school districts throughout the region.
But getting children ready for kindergarten isn’t something that just begins at registration or even in preschool—it really begins at birth!
By the time a child is three years old, the areas that are foundational for later school success and learning are set. So when thinking about kindergarten readiness it’s important to look at the whole child because there’s much more involved than the child knowing letters, numbers and colors. While those things are important, so too are social-emotional, language, cognitive, literacy and physical development.
Each of these areas is influenced by children’s early experiences with others—including the adults in their lives as well as their peers—and his or her unique personality and learning style.
There are many ways to support infant and toddlers overall development but here are a few things you can do to help launch future success in school.
- It starts with you!
You can help set the stage for your child’s educational success by creating and providing a healthy, safe, supportive, engaging environment from the moment they are born. Parents are the first teachers children have and the bond formed between a child and their parent/caregiver is the most important relationship a child has. In the first three years of life, neural connections are forming at a faster, more efficient rate than in any other time of life. The brain is shaping itself by taking in the experiences of the world and you can help give those experiences to your child.
- Promote good health
Make sure your child eats a healthy diet and takes part in regular wellness visits. These visits gives the pediatrician the opportunity to examine your child and monitor his or her growth and overall health and physical and cognitive development, especially in the areas of motor and speech skills as well as social-emotional.
- Read aloud
Reading aloud to infants and toddlers—even if just for 20 minutes a day—promotes literacy and language skills that will set the foundation for future learning. Children learn to pay attention and associate letter sounds and begin to associate those sounds with words and begin to learn numbers, shapes, colors, etc. This is also a time to cuddle and have some quiet time reinforce the connection between parent and child.
- Encourage play
Play is an essential part of every child’s emotional and physical well-being. Brain neurons are hard at work making connections as an infant plays peek-a-boo or bounces up and down in an ExerSaucer and plays with the interactive toys or when a toddler plays with PlayDoh or builds with blocks. When playing with other children, skills such as problem solving, conflict resolution and creating friendships are built.