Hello! Since I have had several requests from parents for more information on kindergarten readiness activities, I have decided to do a series of blog posts on helping your child get ready for Kindergarten at home over the summer! These posts will feature simple ideas that you should be able to do mostly with things that you probably already have around the house, and with a few HeidiSongs products as well. Teachers, you may find some good ideas in this series for back to school time! Please pass it on to parents who have children entering Pre-K or Kindergarten in the fall! These activities might also work for children that have finished Kindergarten, but still need some review. I hope that this is useful to you!
Some of you may remember my post titled, “How to Help Your Child Get Ready For Kindergarten.” This blog post lists the five most important things that children need to know to be ready for a successful year in Kindergarten, at least in my opinion as a 25 year veteran Kindergarten teacher. Each time I do a “Kindergarten Prep Summer School” blog post, I am going to list a few things that you can do that week from each category.
Here are some activities for Heidi’s Summer School at Home, Week One!
1. Practice Separating from Mom (or Dad!) without Tears
Getting off to a positive start at school is SUCH an important thing! And children that are traumatized when they are dropped off because they are being separated from their parents for the very first time at the age of five are almost NEVER happy to be there! So if your child is not yet used to being cared for by people outside of his or her comfort zone, I strongly recommend that you work on overcoming this hurdle together over the summer. (Unfortunately, it’s often just as hard on the mother as it is on the child by the time they get to the age of five- if not harder!)
Consider signing your child up for a class such as Sunday School at your place of worship, if you have one. If not, try attending one with a friend that has a child close in age to your child, and have them go to class together while you are very close by in the worship service or mom’s group, etc.
Think about signing your child up for a class such as swimming lessons where you can be nearby and can see, but your child can’t necessarily see you. When my own children were small, I signed them up for a local swim team every summer, which meant that they got to go swimming every single morning! They learned all of the styles of swimming strokes and became ever stronger swimmers. Meanwhile, “the moms” all sat on the sidelines outside the gates of the pool and kept watch from afar, sipping coffee and chatting. Good times!
2. Name Writing Practice
One thing that gives children LOADS of confidence is being able to write their names on their own papers on the first day of school. I would even go so far as to say that I can take an educated guess on how well a child will do in school based on how the child writes his name on day one. A solid confident stroke shows me that the child has had a lot of experience with paper and pencil, and has likely also been reading and doing other activities. If the child writes their name with print that is very light, a “wiggly” unsure stroke, and that is hard to read is usually going to need help. And a child that has no idea how to write their name on day one usually has a looooooooong way to go.
And remember- learning to write it CORRECTLY is much easier than learning to write it incorrectly, and then having to “un-learn it” and then re-learn how to do it the RIGHT way. So be sure to teach your child to write his name with a capital letter first, and then lower case letters after that. Also, if you call your child a nickname such as “Junior,” etc., consider teaching your child to write his or her given or “real” name instead. There could be 10 kids called “Junior” in your child’s classroom!
Practice in the Car: Get some colorful markers or gel pens that are motivational to work with. My kids LOVED scented markers! Keep them in a zippered pencil pouch and keep some in the car along with a spiral notebook. Put a name card in their for your child to copy. Have your child practice writing his name a few times whenever you get into the car.
Make name writing the child’s “ticket” to do something that he enjoys. For example, if your child gets to watch an hour of television each day, then before you turn on the TV, have him or her write his name five times as a “pass.”
Have your child write his name on a slate, marker board, or paper and take a picture of him holding it once a week to note the progress! You can even make a little movie out of it for fun, if you want to!
Check this post from Hands On As We Grow for 35 Name Writing Ideas!
3. Letter and Sound Identification Practice
There are few things more important to a child’s academic success in Kindergarten and first grade than knowledge of the letters and sounds out of order. So many other skills are built upon these two that I don’t think I could easily sit and name them!
Even if you think your child knows the letters and sounds, keep reviewing! Children need to “over-learn” the letter sounds in particular in order to read fluently. Just think: if you have to stop and really work to come up with each and every letter sound in a word, that will slow you down DRAMATICALLY and make reading a really big chore. No fun at all! So help your child work at those letter sounds so that he or she can give you 30 sounds in 30 seconds!
Consider making a game out of how fast your child can give the letter sounds, using a timer. Keep track of your child’s best time each day and try to beat it. You will find alphabet flash cards here and visual aids that go with the HeidiSongs Letters & Sounds DVD.
Watch HeidiSongs’ Letters & Sounds DVD several times during the week, having your child get up to sing and dance along to the best of your child’s ability. This is very important; once your child has had a chance to view it and start to learn a few of the songs, he should begin to participate as much as possible. Sitting there passively, watching the dancers do the movements and listening to the singers sing will not help much! Learning is not a spectator sport. The person in the room who is doing the most talking and moving is the one that is probably learning the most.
This is what separates HeidiSongs products from other educational lines: they are meant to be interactive- or at least the CD’s and DVD’s are! The magic learning formula is in the mix: as children move along, sing along, see the letters on the screen, and also hear the music, they begin to learn what is being taught. Most kids just can’t help but learn! But the child will need to do this several times a week for a while in order to learn. I would guess that if the child actively participated with the HeidiSongs alphabet DVD four times a week for about 4-6 weeks, he would probably know most of the letters and sounds.
Get some alphabet letters that kids can play with in the bathtub and call out letters as they bathe. My girls used to try to be the first to find them in the water in order to be “Daddy’s Best Girl.” This would probably also be a great game to play in the pool! PLUS, you could build words with them, too! Here is one example: The Little Tykes Bath Letters & Numbers.
Write letters on small pieces of paper or sticky notes and hide them all over the house. Have your child go on a letter hunt to find them. Each time he finds them, have him try to tell you which letter it is and the sound.
Choose a few letters to focus on for the week and write them on a piece of paper. Just be sure to separate the lower case letters from the capital letters and mix them up! (See below.) Pin a copy of it in your hallway, on the bathroom mirror, beside the dining room table, next to the television, etc. Each time you have a moment and you see it, ask your child to identify those letters and give the sounds.
If your child doesn’t know ANY of the letters, then start by focusing on the letters in your child’s name and teach him those first. Otherwise, just start with the first four letters of the alphabet.
The Alphabet Workbooks from HeidiSongs are a great way to help children practice what they know, build fine motor skills, and confidence in themselves. This week, work on A, B, C, and D- unless your child does not know ANY letters. In that case, work on the letters in your child’s name. Vol. 1 of the alphabet book as visual discrimination worksheets in it; volume two has letter sounds worksheets in it. BOTH are vital- but if you can only afford one, opt for volume two with the letter sounds. Your child does NOT need to do every single page, but I would ask my own children to do one page fro each workbook per day. So choose one page from each book from the letter A section on Monday, another from the B section on Tuesday, one from each book from the C section on Wednesday, and so on.
Click here for some free samples from our Alphabet Workbook, Volume One! (Those are for helping kids “see” the difference between one letter and the other.) Click here for some free samples of our Alphabet Workbook, Vol. 2!
If your child is really struggling with learning the alphabet, check this blog post for more tips on teaching the alphabet to struggling learners.
4. Practicing Math Skills- Children will need to be able to count objects at least up to ten, know the shapes, and count out loud accurately at LEAST to ten.
Shape Walk: Go for a walk and look for shapes in the world around you. Name the shapes you see. For example, a rectangle looks like a door; a CD case is a square, wheels are circles.
Just COUNT! On your way back from your walk, count either the cracks in the sidewalk, or the trees that you see, etc. Just count SOMETHING! If your child is struggling to count to ten, then count sets of ten and then start again. Keep a bag of pennies or markers of some type with you and put another marker in your child’s pocket for each set of ten that you find.
Count out the right number of objects on to each plate. Change the objects to count out (or the plates) when children start to get tired of the activity. You could also use Kcups or any other type of container.
Number Plates: Find some paper plates and write some numbers on them. Have your child count out the right number of objects on to each plate. If your child is having trouble counting accurately past a certain number, then work on counting objects up to only that number. Then once he has it, move on to the next number. For example, if your child cannot count out a set of four objects correctly every time, then just work on sets of four until he gets it; then move on to fives.
Sing and Move: The absolute EASIEST way that I know of to help kids to learn to identify the numbers and shapes is by letting them sing and dance along with the HeidiSongs Jumpin’ Numbers and Shakin’ Shapes DVD or our Number Jumble DVD. The songs are short and catchy, and they work just as well as the alphabet songs. So you may want to have your child do the alphabet DVD in the morning and the numbers and shapes DVD in the evening, etc.
Try to find some time to practice writing the numbers and shapes throughout the summer. The more that your child practices writing the numbers, the more familiar he will be with what they look like and the more likely it will be that he will remember them. HeidiSongs’ Counting Creatures Vol.1 worksheets that can help your child learn the numbers. You can get some free downloadable samples of these pages here.
We also have Shape Creatures here! Kids love these great illustrations! I’m sure that one math worksheet per day (three or four times per week) is plenty- unless your child is ASKING to do more. Click here for some free sample sheets of the Shape Creatures Workbook pages.
The top priority in math should be counting real objects; then after that, work on writing the numbers and shapes. Then have your child practice counting out sets of numbers and circling the correct number as shown above.
5. Identifying the Beginning Sounds of Words and Rhyming
Rhyming: This can be done easily, just by reading some great books with rhymes in them and remembering to pointing out those rhymes to your child! Of course you are reading with your child every day anyhow- right?
Beginning Sounds: Anywhere you are, get in the habit of asking your child to tell you what sound things you see are. Example: “Oh, I see a bike! What is the beginning sound of bike?” (B.) Make sure your child says the sound of the B, (/b/) rather than the letter name.
Does this all sound overwhelming? It probably won’t be, once you get into a routine. If your child is giving you trouble about doing them, try to break up your sessions into ten minutes or less at a time. Don’t ask your child to continue working on these things for two hours solid, because a four or five year old usually doesn’t have the attention span to do it, no matter how hard you may insist. Therefore, you are setting the two of you up for frustration. Keep your learning times reasonably short and positive. Try working for a while in the morning, and then go out and play! Work a little bit more in the afternoon, and then again for a short while in the evening. Remember, this is Kindergarten Prep- not Kindergarten! Have fun!
Check back each week for more ideas for our Kindergarten Prep Summer School with HeidiSongs! Sign up for the email blog updates so that you don’t miss a thing!
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