It's June: Is your Kindergartener Ready for First Grade?


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Updated on Jun 13, 2011

If you thought graduations were a big deal just in high school and college, think again. In today’s standards-driven kindergartens, the end of that first year can feel, well, momentous. After all, it was only a few months ago that these newly minted preschool grads were tiptoeing into the room. Now, in June, they know how to start a school day and work in a group. They count things all over the place, and if they’re not already reading, they’re deliciously on the verge. Still, in the face of your kid’s proud new independence, don’t be surprised if you find yourself worrying, too. In just a few months, First Grade will be here...and that means a few changes that may be quite a big deal for your child:

Longer School Day

While some communities offer a “full day” kindergarten, many children still only attend for half the day, and they are accustomed to being home by early afternoon. Not so in first grade, when the children will switch to a schedule that’s more or less the same through fifth grade. Parents, get ready! Expect your child to be tired and perhaps cranky for the first few weeks of school. Reassure yourself and your child: fortunately, teachers are ready for the challenge and most kids will adjust quickly.

More Focus

In first grade, teachers will work hard to help kids expand their capacity to focus. Back in kindergarten, the children most frequently worked in small groups, moving around the room from one activity to the next at short intervals. While first grade will continue this format, but with longer work-times, and there will be more times when the whole class works on one assignment.

Over the summer, it’s tempting to relax those computer-game and TV rules and let mealtimes wander. But do try to maintain some basic routines in your home. Experts agree that one of the best ways to help children learn to focus is to maintain as much consistency and predictability as possible. Finally, try to find at least some time most days when your child focuses on one quiet activity for at least 20 minutes, such as writing a warm, happy letter to Grandma. She’ll be thrilled, and your child will be that much better prepared for first grade, too.

More Small Motor Activities

Back in kindergarten, your child worked almost daily with markers and scissors, and the transition to first grade may be a breeze. But if your child did struggle a bit, summer is a great time to build strength and coordination. Beware: this doesn’t mean forcing your child to sit down with a pen for hours of penmanship. Instead, teachers and occupational therapists emphasize activities that strengthen coordination so that handwriting becomes easier. You don’t need anything fancy; just look around the house.

Veteran kindergarten teacher Cindy Middendorf, of upstate New York, recommends “tweezers, salad tongs, turkey basters, squirt bottles…anything that will strengthen the ‘pincer’ grip of thumb, index, and tall man fingers. You can even teach kids the sign language for the word ‘no’!” Full-body activities like swimming also strengthen core muscles, making it easier for the children to align their bodies, sit and stand properly, and be able to support their arms and legs.

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