Q: We’re a year out before our son is scheduled to begin kindergarten. For a variety of reasons, he won’t be attending pre-school, and I’m afraid this might put him at a disadvantage next year. Is there anything I can do to compensate for this?
A: It’s important to understand that cultivating “school readiness” isn’t simply a matter of formal academic training. All of a child’s early experiences, whether at home or in organised preschool settings, are educational. There are a number of things, then, you can do at home to optimise his chances of succeeding in the academic arena. Here are a few suggestions:
- Read books aloud with your child. Get him used to handling books and help him recognise the difference between pictures and print.
- Engage in informal counting activities. This will strengthen your child’s understanding of numbers. Familiarise him with the alphabet.
- Develop reading readiness by promoting your child’s phonological awareness. You can do this by reading nursery rhymes, singing and clapping along with songs, and playing games with rhyming words.
- Spend time talking, playing, and cuddling with your child. Take steps to stimulate informal conversation. Give him opportunities to ask lots of questions. Encourage play that promotes creativity, imagination, and problem-solving skills.
- If your child has trouble sitting still, practice having him concentrate on a task for a short period of time (ten minutes). Over several months, increase that time until he can remain focused for 30 minutes or so.
- Create and maintain a regular routine in your home. Emphasise mealtimes, naptimes, bedtime, etc. Help your child to become comfortable with this rhythm.
- Encourage behaviours and activities that develop a sense of responsibility in your child (e.g., simple chores) and that demonstrate respect and courtesy.
- Look for opportunities to develop your child’s social skills through playgroups.
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