Preparing kids for kindergarten is critical for early childhood education practices, according to a National Association for the Education of Young Children report. Not every child develops in the same way or at the same rate, making a one-size-fits-all school readiness program undesirable. However, you can find an array of schools and programs that feature various educational philosophies to help prepare your child for her life in kindergarten.
Before choosing a school that will help your little learner to prepare for kindergarten, keep in mind several considerations. While you might want your child to learn some of the basic academic concepts, such as his ABCs and counting to 10, you will also need an educational environment that teaches less scholastic types of content. A purely academic school readiness program might not focus enough on personal development skills that are necessary for the transition into grade school. As a kindergartner, your child will need to have self-care abilities such as dressing and feeding himself and self-regulation abilities. When choosing a preschool program, look for a school that focuses on those types of developmental and educational aspects.
Although a preschool is somewhat in the same category as any other out-of-home care center, it does differ in a few significant ways when it comes to preparing your child for kindergarten. Preschools, unlike child care centers, typically don't have full workday hours and might run part time. While children certainly get their fair share of loving care during the preschool day, these "schools" typically focus on readying your child for kindergarten in a more academic way than a day care would. A typical preschool program will include learning a variety of concepts -- such as early literacy, mathematics, science and the arts -- through age-appropriate instructional and play-based methods. You can find preschool programs in private schools, religious institutions, community centers and public schools such as Head Start centers.
While the primary focus of day care is to provide a safe, supervised environment while you are away from your child, he will also learn and begin to get ready for kindergarten at this out-of-home arrangement. It's likely that your child's day care has a set curriculum that will help him to learn basic skills, such as his letters and numbers, that he will need for grade school. According to the experts at the early childhood organization Zero to Three, caregivers or teachers in child care centers should help their students grow and develop, while still providing love and attention. Additionally, your child will learn some of the essential self-care skills that he will need for kindergarten such as feeding himself, using the bathroom with minimal adult assistance and dressing himself.
Whether you are choosing a full-day or part-time program, some early learning environments base their teaching methods on a specific philosophy. Getting ready for kindergarten in this type of environment might mean mastering skills to stay in the same type of school or developing the abilities that your child will need to progress on to a public elementary. For example, Montessori schools take a child-centered approach and group kids in multi-age classrooms. For example, your preschooler would stay in one classroom from ages 3 through 6, and then move onto an early elementary room. In Waldorf schools, students challenge their imaginations through open-ended free play and practical experiences such as baking or making hand-crafts. Like Montessori preschools, a Waldorf early education will prepare your child to move into the higher level, kindergarten and up, classrooms in the same school.
- NAEYC: Where We Stand on School Readiness
- PBS Parents: Helping Children to Prepare for Kindergarten
- KidsHealth: Choosing Child Care
- Zero to Three: Choosing Quality Child Care
- American Montessori Society: Introduction to Montessori
- Why Waldorf Works: Waldorf Education, Preschool and Kindergarten in the Waldorf School
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