Parent Tips

Before Kindergarten: An SLP’s Thoughts on the Important Skills

School bells are ringing. The buses are rolling through town. The air smells of fresh crayons and school lunches. If you drive any elementary school on that first day, you will see parents and caregivers lugging in a truck load of school supplies. The child has a backpack bigger than him strapped to his back. But the question is: Is your little one ready for school? Here are some suggestions from a pediatric SLP who also happen to work in the schools at one time.

Let me start off by saying, I have two kids. I was in your shoes at one time. None of this occurred to me when I was sending my littles off to Pre-K or Kindergarten. So, definitely no mom-bashing or mom guilt trip from me! Both of my kids are July birthdays. My concerns were “Are they ready?” “Do they know their colors?” “Can they write their name?” “Do we know at least some letters?” These are all very important. But I’ve got a few more recommendations that you might want to consider.

Problem Solving: Can your child figure out how to solve a problem like putting his shoes on or getting his ball cap off the hook? We’re not asking a 5 year old to solve world peace or hunger, but can he find a solution to his current issue. I recently had a mom text me a picture of a stack of books under a coat hook at their house. She commented that her 4 year old was going from downstairs to upstairs repeatedly to get enough books for him to stand on. He wanted to get his cap off the hook. That’s the kind of problem solving we are talking about. If your child needs help, can he request help effectively. HINT: an all out tantrum is not asking for help effectively. And remember YOUR CHILD DOES NOT NEED SUPERHERO! Do not swoop in and save the day. Let your child struggle. It’s ok if he fails. That’s part of learning how to do things.

Social Greetings: I could spend an ENTIRE BLOG POST on this one! Teach your child to greet people or respond appropriately to greeting such as “Good morning” or “how are you?” Do not answer for him or push him past the principal that just said “Good Morning Kent!”

Self-Regulation: When your child gets upset or doesn’t get his way, does he have ways to deal with the anger or frustration? Counting to 10, breathing, walking away are good ways to bring the body and mind back together in a calm state.

Play: Sharing, Cooperative Play, Imaginative Play…these are all a part of Kindergarten. COVID has really done a number on play dates and other social gatherings for children. In my honest opinion, kids do not know how to socialize with one another because of the isolation and TECHONOLGY. That’s right…get these kids off technology. (That’s an entire other blog post for another time!) Teach them how to interact with others. Yes parents, that means you need to get off the tech too for a bit! How else are they going to learn?!

Attention and Focus: Can your child sit and attend to a task from start to finish (in reasonable amount of time, say 3-5 minutes at least?) And guess what? I am not talking about focusing on an app or game on tablet/phone! Can your child attend to an age appropriate book, puzzle or craft? They’ll be expected to when school starts.

Your child does not need you to swoop in and save the day. Your child needs you to serve as a guide to solve a problem.

I realize the alphabet, colors, numbers, sight words, writing their name are all important skills for school. But remember this…these 5 year old will grow up to be adults. We need to teach the foundational skills now to help them in adulthood.

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