Did you know you can teach school readiness skills right now? Most parents want to do the best they can to make sure their child is prepared for school, but they don’t know what to do or how to do it.
I can help you.
I am an English teacher, and I taught my own kids how to read and count before they went to school. Don’t worry. You don’t have to be a teacher. You can do it too!
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Ashley Smith, a reading specialist and former first-grade teacher, and I have put together a list of things to do to help your child to have school readiness skills before he enters kindergarten.
You are getting the wisdom of two experts for free. These suggestions are easy to do. Some of them you can do at snack time! Most of it is done while playing or reading books together. It takes no planning to teach school readiness skills. Let me show you how!
School Readiness Skills For Numbers and Shapes
How to Teach Math
1. Rote counting– practice counting in the car, at the table, waiting in line at the store, or any other dead time where there is nothing to do. Just start counting and have your child do it with you. You can sing it to a tune.
2. Recognize numbers-get books that focus on numbers and counting. Read the page and have your child trace the number with his/her finger. Make sure your child starts at the top of the number and goes down. Mac and cheese, soups, and crackers have numbers and letters that are fun to explore and eat.
3. Count objects- Get large beads, food (goldfish crackers, fruit snacks, etc.) or any other object in multiples. Count them together. Great snack time activity. This will help your child be school-ready.
4. More or less- work on what is more or less using the objects. This can also be done at snack time, too! Do it while the child is eating them.
How to Teach Higher Level Math
5. Counting all– your child will be school-ready if he/she can look at fingers (or any small group of objects) and automatically see five fingers without having to count each finger to get to five.
6. Addition and subtraction-put objects in groups. Add or subtract from each group. Yep, snack time is good for this.
7. Fractions-use graham crackers. Snap it in half and then in fourths to show the fractions. Or any other object you can divide.
8. Measurement– let your child cook with you. Talk about the measurements as your child scoops, pours, and stirs. All of these actions help with motor skills, too.
9. Calendar skills- get a child-friendly calendar and put it on the wall down low for your child to see every day. You can change the day, month, and year together.
Go over the numbers a few seconds each day. This will help your child have school readiness skills. You can also talk about the holidays as they come up. That will throw in some history.
10. Clock skills-get a paper clock or puzzle for your child. Have a real clock that is hung up high to compare with the paper or puzzle clock. Your child can play with the paper clock/puzzle while you show the time on the real clock.
You can verbally talk about time through the day as you change activities.
How to Teach Colors and Shapes
1. Colors-start with primary colors first. Have lots of books and toys that emphasize colors and shapes.
Read them together and point them out. Ask your child to point to the color. Have him eventually say it back to you.
2. Shapes-start with the basic shapes-square, triangle, rectangle, oval, and star. Point them out and play a guessing game. Or connect drinking straws with play-doh to make shapes.
Have a fun reward (extra playtime, later bedtime, a friend over) when your child can draw them all and name them.
3. Toy time-spend a little time every day sitting on the floor with your child playing with her. When you are playing with the toys, talk about the shapes and colors as you play together. This is a great way to teach school readiness skills.
School Readiness Skills for Language
How to Teach Writing
1. Writing tools– use broken crayons, small chalk, paintbrush, or any other thing that would force a pinch. The goal is to hold a pencil correctly. (Keep your broken crayons!).
Avoid markers as they are too big. The smaller the better.
2. Trace letters with a finger– always have the child start at the top when writing and go down. Start with capital letters. The child is learning to connect lines writing the uppercase letters first.
Lowercase letters are rounded and harder to write. Wait on that. You can use the letters in books or write your own letters to trace.
3. Chalkboard- get a chalkboard so your child can write and draw on it. It doesn’t have to be a big board. You want a size that your child can maneuver easily.
You can put a letter on the board and have your child trace it with the chalk. Then see if he can write it alone.
4 Trace name over copier paper– get two pieces of paper from your printer. Write the child’s name in large capital letters using a black marker. Place a blank sheet on top of the paper with the name.
The name will show through the paper. Have your child trace the letters with a crayon or pencil. As the child conquers it, make the name smaller. These tips are great readiness skills to have before school starts.
How to Teach Letters
1. Books- get books that focus on the alphabet and short words. I loved Richard Scarry and Dr. Seus books. Read them often. Have books in the car to look at while you are driving. Talk about sounds in the car. This will help your child to have school readiness skills.
2. Sing the alphabet song/download songs-you can break into song/listen to songs when you are together in the car, kitchen cooking, or any other dead time when nothing is happening. I had songs playing in my child’s bedroom during playtime.
Find songs that have the books of the Bible, the alphabet, counting, scripture, etc. Your child will eventually be able to sing these songs if you keep playing them.
3. Flash Cards-letters are just like animals. Each one has a name and a sound. Work on the name and the sound when you are showing the card.
Example: The letter “D” is “dee-duh.” The letter “B” is “bee-buh.” You can hole punch the cards and attach them with a ring. They are much easier to flip, and they won’t get lost.
4. Magnet letters-buy magnet letters and put them on the refrigerator/oven/dishwasher. (Whatever appliance is magnetic.) Your child can play with them while you are cooking dinner.
Spell your child’s name and keep it on the fridge. Talk about it and sound the letters out casually while you are working in the kitchen.
5. Food with letters-Trader Joe’s has cookies with letters. Talk about the sound and name while eating them. You can spell your child’s name and other short words. This will help you teach school readiness skills.
6. Sandpaper letters-These are letters that are slightly raised with a sandpaper texture. Your child can feel the way the letter is made by tracing the raised sandpaper with his/her fingers.
Only introduce 2-3 at a time. It can be a bit overwhelming when learning them.
School Readiness Motor Skills
1. Buy “old school” toys-wooden toys and blocks are great for teaching color, shapes, and creativity. Your child has to use his/her hands to grasp and manipulate the objects. Electronic toys don’t teach this!
2. Play-doh- roll it like a worm, pinch, make a ball, cut with cookie cutters, and form shapes. These motions help your child build strength. You have to have a certain amount of muscle to hold and control a pencil. This really helps your child to have school readiness skills.
3. Paint- let your child paint with watercolors, tempera paint, etc. Holding a brush helps develop strength.
4. Kinetic Sand-kinetic sand is sand that sticks together. It is mess-free, non-toxic, and easy to use. Your child can build things in the house without making a huge mess.
5. Glue-I used glue sticks with my second child. Big mistake. When she went to kindergarten, she didn’t know how to use a glue bottle. She was actually behind in this area. Oops. I know better.
6. Scissors-buy child-friendly scissors and some construction paper. Cut and glue the paper together to make an animal. Check Pinterest for craft ideas. This will help you teach school readiness skills.
7. Lacing, buttons, and zippers-find toys or dolls that have lacing, buttons, and zippers. These skills are important to help your child be school-ready. It builds muscle strength and coordination.
8. Sensory Bin-put beads, sand, beans, whatever you want into a bin. Your child can scoop, dig, play with all the different textures. Check out Pinterest for more ideas.
9. Ditch the Ipad– the Ipad does not help your child at all. I know, bummer. Your child needs to be outside playing, building, drawing, climbing, coloring, painting, digging, and etc. It sounds old-fashioned, but it is not.
Kids who sit inside and watch TV or play on the Ipad are behind in their ability to be school-ready. They also have a bigger chance of being overweight. Use school readiness skills to develop your child’s brain.
10. Do STEM Activities-STEM means Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. This is a fancy way to say educators are now trying to integrate these subjects together to create situations that demand real-world problem-solving through discovery and exploratory learning.
Do more hands-on activities so your child will be school-ready. Pinterest has some great tips.
How to Teach School Readiness Skills
1. Teach through play-you are just playing. It is no big deal. There are no lesson plans or tests. Be purposeful with the time you spend together. Smile and have fun. If you are laughing and smiling, your child will never know you are “teaching” anything. It is just a part of your conversation.
2. Allow time for answers-if you ask a question, let your child think through the answer. It takes a long time for things to connect in a little brain when there is new material. It may feel uncomfortable when there is a long wait time. Just smile and encourage her to think about it.
3. Talk to yourself-instead of asking your child a question, you can talk to yourself and say, “Hmmm. I wonder what color this is? Hmm. What is it?”
I made it funny and asked the dog or a stuffed animal every once in a while. This works especially well when your child is in a stubborn mood and doesn’t want to answer anything you ask.
4. Talk at eye level-get on the floor, have your child sit in your lap, or stoop down when talking to your child. Sit together in the toddler chairs, if you have them. Smile and talk normally.
You don’t want to talk baby-talk or repeat his baby talk. Make sure your child learns how to say and do things the right way the first time. Otherwise, you or the teacher will have to break the habit and reteach. Not fun!
5. Travel and go places-visit the zoo, go to the park, explore nature, or travel if you can. Expose your child to the world. Experiences help your child connect ideas, thoughts, and make new meaning of what she is learning.
I hope these suggestions and tips will help your child be school-ready. You don’t have to do all of them. The more you do, the better it will be for your child. I know because I did most of these, and it worked on my kids.
What school readiness skills do you do with your child?
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