Contributing to your child’s school readiness

In September, many children will attend school for the first time. They will be expected to be able to communicate, to demonstrate basic knowledge, to socialize with others and to show independence. As a parent, you may wonder if your child is adequately prepared for these expectations in kindergarten. Do play experiences in the early years provide a solid foundation for your child’s school readiness? How can you, as a parent, and other care providers develop children’s academic skills through play? Here are some activities you can enjoy with your child which are examples of how play nurtures the skills that contribute to school readiness.

Communication: Play with Spoken and Written Words

  • Talk to your child often and show her the many ways she can use language. Engage your child in storytelling experiences. As she listens to the words and participates in telling stories, she will learn important conversational skills. Sing songs, recite rhymes and do fingerplays together to help your child to hear the intonation and rhythm patterns of language. Introduce your child to new and interesting words, to help her build her vocabulary. These are ways to teach your child to love language and to enjoy the wonder of words!
  • Show your child how writing can help him to express his ideas. When your child draws pictures, ask him to tell you a story about them and write down his words. This allows him to see the relationship between spoken words and text. Include paper and writing tools among his toys and dramatic play props so he can explore the different ways he sees writing used through his imaginative play (e.g. making lists or creating a birthday card). As he practices printing he will discover that the magical markings he is making have meaning!

Basic Knowledge: Play to Encourage Literacy and Basic Math Skills

  • Read to your child every day. As you enjoy your child’s favourite books together, help her to identify alphabet letters and to recognize and make their sounds. Explore words in the story. What do they mean? Can she find examples of different words around the house? Talk about the story and ask open-ended questions about the characters. Can she guess what might happen next? Invite your child to tell you a story about the pictures and then see how closely her words match the text. Story time can give your child reading skills that last a life time!
  • Build your child’s understanding of math concepts like counting, sorting, patterning, recognizing shapes and measuring through his every day play. Recite rhymes like One, Two, Buckle My Shoe to familiarize your child with number words. When your child plays with toys, count them so he can match the words to actual objects. At tidy up time he can sort the cars, people and blocks into separate baskets. Make necklaces from beads of different shapes, sizes and colours to create patterns. Provide building materials for your child or recyclable items for creating three-dimensional artwork. Make a growth chart so your child can discover how tall he is. Exploring math in ways that are fun will add to his math skills one by one!

Socializing: Play to Support your Child’s Interactions

  • Play and interact with your child every day. Parents are a child’s first playmate, so it is important to make time together for games and make-believe. When you play with your child, you will see things from her point of view and have the chance to follow her lead. She will also learn from your example and have your support as she learns about rules, other people’s feelings and solving problems. Entering the world of your child’s play helps your child to enter the world of school confidently!
  • Encourage your child to engage in dramatic play experiences with his peers. As children interact in an imaginary situation (e.g. doctor’s office), they talk, assign roles, create and follow rules and use symbolic thinking as they decide upon using one object to represent another (e.g. a block is a telephone). These are important social and thinking skills that they will use as they learn to co-operate, take turns and get along with others. Pretend play prepares your child for kindergarten in very real ways!

Being Independent: Play to Build Confidence and Self-Control

  • Help your child to develop strategies for controlling his emotions, behaviours and thoughts. Talk about the way people in storybooks and pictures are feeling, and talk about what might cause those feelings. This will teach your child the words for different emotions and help your child to describe his own feelings and those of other people. When playing games together, be a positive influence if your child gets upset. Help him to be calm, to try to remain positive and to know that he might not win or be first all the time. Being able to calm himself on his own will help your child be more excited about being and playing with friends!
  • Provide opportunities for your child to practice self-help skills. Including clothing in your child’s dramatic play props enables her to dress independently and to become more able to manipulate buttons, zippers, buckles, laces and Velcro. She will feel pride in her ability to do things for herself and develop the confidence to try when faced with new challenges in kindergarten. The success she experiences when learning skills through play will encourage her to achieve success in other learning areas!

There are many things that happen at home every day that help to build a strong foundation for your child’s academic success. Remember, the time you spend playing with your child now is an investment in her future!