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Readiness is key to kindergarten success

Six-year-old Tim Stickle of Zelienople paints during a recent event at the Zelienople Public Library. Parents can expose children to organized activities to help prepare, mold and grow their child's emotional, physical and social skills to be ready for kindergarten.
Parents can help prepare youngsters

Long before young learners hear school bells ring for the first time, educational experts encourage parents to bring out the shapes, colors and child-safe scissors.

“A lot of parents do these things without realizing it,” said Shane Spack, Chicora Elementary School's principal for the past 10 years. “When we make them aware, they are more intentional and purposeful about it ... It really makes a difference.”

District officials do not turn away pupils from kindergarten, but they tell parents they can help prepare, mold and grow their child's emotional, physical and social skills to be ready.

Parents can also be involved in their child's kindergarten readiness by working on activities with them to recognize letters, numbers, colors and shapes and scheduling daily routines.

In the Karns City School District, children must be 5 years old before July 1 to enroll, Spack said.

Informal transitional meetings are held for parents before the start of kindergarten to give them resources, suggestions and ideas, he said.

Until then, play games with your child using shapes and colors, Spack said. Find shapes around your house or neighborhood and ask your child to help identify what the object's shape is, such as a square or circle sign.

Purchase child-safe scissors and have the child practice cutting paper by following a lined paper, which is a skill a student will need in kindergarten, he said. Have the child cut out shapes when they become more skilled.

Buy a set of letter magnets for the refrigerator door to help with letter recognition and distinguishing uppercase and lowercase letters and sounds, he said.

Fold laundry and have the child practice counting, such as counting pairs they folded, he said.

Count the number of plates, forks and cups on the dinner table. Write the number down and have the child circle the answer, he said.

“Doing those little games and singing songs and rhymes about that stuff helps,” Spack said.

Read to the child every day, he said. Parents should run their finger over the words to help the child understand that the story reads from left to right and top to bottom.

Give the child two-step directions, such as put on pajamas and brush your teeth, to learn to follow directions, he said. A game of Simon Says will also help with this skill.

Slippery Rock School District hosts a variety of events to prepare kindergartners, who have to be age 5 by Sept. 1, said Patricia Kardambikis, the district's assistant superintendent.

The district has partnerships with local preschools for its kindergarten transitional program that provide four transitional activities for children under age 5 who plan to attend school the following year, she said.

At Reindeer Romp and Turkey Trot, children take part in classroom activities while parents attend a guest speaker presentation.

A teacher talks about speech and language development at the Bunny Hop and provides parents with a checklist on child readiness.

During Watermelon Welcome, kindergarten teachers speak to parents about what the school requires.

The year finishes with a Let's Learn Lunch during which kindergartners and their parents can practice eating lunch.

Assessments are given to update parents on their students' progress.

The Bunny Hop is from 6 to 7:30 p.m. April 10 at Slippery Rock Elementary School and from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. March 25 at Moraine Elementary School. Call the school your child will attend to reserve a spot.

The events encourage a positive transition into the school environment where students will have those types of social interactions and peer connections, she said.

South Butler County school district has a three-stage process for enrolling kindergartners, said Greg Mandalas, who has been the South Butler Primary School principal since 2016.

In February, the district held its Spring Fling, where parents and their kindergarten students joined the kindergarten teachers for activities, spent time with teachers and visited their classrooms.

During kindergarten registration/screening, the child is put through the Developmental Indicators for Assessment and Learning process, or DIAL, which looks at three areas: motor, concepts and language, Mandalas said.

At the end of the process, parents are informed of their child's strengths and weaknesses to encourage growth, he said. Every parent takes home parent-child activities to work on with their students.

Mandalas encourages parents to expose their children to organized activities through their place of worship or preschool to get them adjusted to separation, he said.

Routine at home is essential because there is no nap time in kindergarten, Mandalas said.

“Every kid develops differently,” he said.

Here are some signs that your child is ready for kindergarten:<b>Academically (pre-reading skills)</b>- Can retell a simple story- Speaks in complete sentences of five to six words- Writes name or recognizes letters in name- Recognizes the title of a book- Matches rhyming sounds- Counts to 10<b>Socially</b>- Feels comfortable in a group- Asks for help when needed- Knows personal information (name, age, gender)- Follows simple instructions- Recognizes authority- Is able to share<b>Physically</b>-Exhibits fine motor skills (holds pencil, traces shapes, buttons shirt, etc.)-Exhibits motor coordination (rides a bike with training wheels, hops, skips)-Manages bathroom needsSOURCE: readingrockets.ORG

- Keep your child healthy: Ensure that your child eats healthy foods, gets plenty of sleep and receives routine medical checkups.- Develop routines: Choose regular times for your child to eat, play and sleep each day.- Encourage the development of basic skills: Work with your child to help him or her recognize letters, numbers, colors and shapes.- Encourage socialization: Promote your child's social development by signing him or her up for group activities and inviting friends to go on outings. Encourage your child to share, express his or her feelings, practice taking turns, and follow simple directions.- Talk about kindergarten: Build excitement and lessen anxiety by explaining what your child's routine might be like in kindergarten.SOURCE: <a href="">MAYO CLINIC</a>

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