NOT drill and kill but play and play!
The following low-cost or no-cost play-based activities will help lay a solid foundation for a great start to Kindergarten.
1. Build Background Knowledge
Providing a wide range of experiences through visits to children’s museums or nature centers, planting seeds and watching them grow, or cooking simple recipes together builds background knowledge. These simple activities not only create lasting memories, but build a store of knowledge and language that children will draw upon in the Kindergarten classroom.
Children’s songs help to develop rhyming skills. Rhyming is an essential prerequisite for reading. One of our favorite children’s musicians is Raffi. Raffi’s songs are language rich so while singing along to this delightful music, your child is also building his/her vocabulary and developing listening skills.
3. Read Aloud
There’s nothing like cuddling on the couch and reading together. A positive feeling toward reading is established through this routine. Laugh together, cry together, enjoy stories together. Listening to stories often has a calming effect
on little ones. When is the right time for a story?
Bedtime – this sets a routine and helps calm children down for an easier transition to sleep
A rainy day – a perfect rainy day story is, The Napping House by Audrey Wood
In the waiting room of a doctor’s or dentist’s office
While waiting for or traveling on an airplane
And the BEST time of all is…cuddle time
4. Play oral word games
I Spy – “I spy with my little eye something that is _________ (name a color).” This fun activity sneaks in color recognition without making it a ‘chore’. A twist to this game is to use the beginning sound of a word. “I spy with my little eye something that begins with _________ (make beginning sound).” The second version builds phonemic awareness (awareness of sounds in words). A child’s ability to discriminate sounds in words is a necessary step toward connecting sounds in print.
Hint: a perfect time to play these games is anytime your preschooler needs to wait (i.e. doctor’s/dentist’s waiting room or a restaurant).
5. Read Alphabet Books
Exposure to letters and sounds prior to entering Kindergarten will provide a strong foundation for success. We are NOT talking about worksheets or flashcards. We ARE talking about reading a variety of delightful alphabet books WITH your preschooler. These alphabet books can serve multiple purposes: letter recognition, connecting letters to the beginning sounds of words, building vocabulary, as well as instilling a positive attitude toward books and building attention span.
6. Develop Fine Motor Skills
We can’t say enough about this. Kids will be required to do a fair amount of writing in Kindergarten. They will need to practice writing their letters and, more-than-likely, will participate in writing centers or writing workshop. The best thing you can do for your child is provide opportunities to strengthen the muscles in their hands through play-based activities: Legos, playdough, digging in a sandbox, and coloring. Please don’t worry about handwriting practice before Kindergarten. They will get enough of that when the time is right. Now is the time for PLAY.
7. Visit the Library
Many libraries have developmentally appropriate programs designed for preschoolers. Often these programs involve reading, singing, and movement activities. Attending these groups also helps your child learn social skills through interaction with other preschoolers.
8. Tell Family Stories
One of the sweetest family memories I have occurred a few years ago when my niece was only four years old. A few extended family members were sitting around the table after dinner. Breanna asked her grandfather to tell a funny story about when he was little. He obliged and we all laughed uproariously. Breanna then asked her great-grandfather to do the same. We went around the table and everyone participated – including Breanna. It was such a great way to develop a sense of story, listening skills, and oral language skills. Not to mention that story-telling within a family develops a sense of belonging and history. Stories can also involve the scariest thing, the most embarrassing time, the happiest time, etc.
9. Play, Play, Play!
Undirected play is THE crucial building block for children. Gross motor play helps build core strength which is necessary for sitting upright. Click here for a more detailed description about the importance of developing gross motor skills. Imaginative play helps develop vocabulary, oral language, and problem solving. Play is the ‘work’ of children.
Above all, enjoy your time with your preschooler. There will be plenty of time for academics during the next 13+ years. Remember…”childhood is a journey, not a race.” author: unknown