Kindergarten Intellectual Development

Kindergarten marks a year of huge intellectual growth in children. They're learning to read, talk and listen. They're getting better at following rules. Their memories are improving. All these new powers mean new skills for you to master as a parent. Read this slideshow to learn what intellectual milestones your child will pass during kindergarten and what you can do to help.

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They’re living in a fantasy world.

Kindergarteners are the center of their own world. Separating real life and fantasy is still a year or two away. Because of this, children this age often have irrational fears about things they’ve imagined, such as a monster under the bed.

What you should do: Be patient and understanding. Don’t dismiss your child’s fear. It might be silly to you, but it’s very real to her.

They process the world by what they can see visually.

Kids this age find it easiest to understand things they can see with their own eyes. They don’t understand that ice is frozen water. They don’t understand that a lump of clay can be rolled into a long rope and still contain the same amount of clay.

What you should do: Accept that you can’t explain everything to your child. Be patient, and don't lose your cool over the constant “Why?” questions.

They want routine and rules.

Kindergarteners want to know the rules, and they usually follow them. If the rules change even slightly, they can be upset by the shift in their routine. Sometimes they have a strong desire to please adults and they complain when others break rules.

What you should do: Ensure your home has structure. Explain the rules and make sure your child understands them before expecting her to fall in line. Encourage simple routines like setting the dinner table and making the bed. When your child follows rules, tell her you appreciate it. When she doesn’t, calmly reinforce rules. Say, “You must clean your room,” for example.

They are learning lots of new words in a short time.

Kindergarten is a time of tremendous language growth. Kids listen closely and use context clues to understanding new words. When that doesn’t work, most have no problem asking (and asking, and asking, and asking again).

What you should do: Talk a lot, and don’t worry too much about using too many big words. In fact, go out of your way to use new words in everyday conversation. Tell stories. Recite poetry. Play word games.

They begin to understand grammar and complicated sentences.

Many kindergarteners learn to pick up the meaning of advanced language. For example, they may understand when adults are speaking in present, past and future tense, or what adults mean when they say something might or might not happen.

What you should do: Speak to your child like you would speak to an adult. You may be used to speaking in very simple language, but kindergarten can be the time to start breaking that habit.

They are developing a functional memory.

You might be surprised what your child can remember and repeat at the drop of a hat. Kids this age can remember grocery lists, phone numbers, song lyrics, poems, directions with multiple steps, you name it.

What you should do: Challenge your kid to remember things, such as your phone number and home address, but don’t push it if she has trouble.

They like to talk.

Kindergarteners are learning new words and how language works, so it’s natural that they want to use their new knowledge for themselves. Sometimes what they say makes little sense to adults, but every time they open their mouth is a chance for them to learn.

What you should do: Encourage your little one’s talkative nature. Do activities like singing songs, telling stories, reciting poetry and staging plays. If your kid is still stuck on one-word answers, it’s normal. Just keep encouraging and talking with her.

They can discuss stories intelligently.

Children in kindergarten love stories, and they can stay interested for up to 15 or 20 minutes at a time. Not only that, but a kindergartener can discuss concepts like what character she likes best, how the characters solved a problem and what she would have done if she was in their position.

What you should do: Discuss books you’ve read together. Read different genres. Not only does this build a love of reading, but it can also plant seeds of social skills your child will use in the future, like conflict resolution and problem solving.

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