Kindergarten Readiness in the Time of Covid

Preschool graduation looks different than expected. Preschoolers don’t get to hug their teachers or friends goodbye. Safety protocols have changed the way once-normal gatherings are handled. No, this year ended in a way we never could have predicted.

And the fact is, at the time of this writing (May), we still don’t know what to expect when your child begins kindergarten in the fall.

So how should you prepare your child for kindergarten in the time of Covid-19? Read on for some helpful tips.

Social Development

kindergarten readiness utah

Our social world is drastically different than a few months ago. Where once, children may have gotten much of their social development from frequent play dates, now we need to reconsider how our children will develop social skills.

At this age, your child is working on sharing, taking turns, showing concern for others, playing cooperatively, and managing emotions. 

How can you do this when you might need to limit play dates and group settings?

  • Take your child into the world as much as possible. Take walks in nature and discuss how you need to move to the right of the trail when another person approaches (sharing the trail). Talk about being respectful with your voices so as not to disturb other people or neighborhoods (playing cooperatively). 
  • If you can go to public places, discuss current social distancing guidelines and how to follow them (playing cooperatively and showing concern for others).
  • Set up video calls, and encourage your child to take turns in the conversation. Teach them how to ask questions and wait for answers.
  • Give your child time, space, and materials to play pretend so they can role-play different scenarios.
  • Read books, and ponder out loud about how the characters feel.
  • If you can have play dates, follow current social distancing guidelines and discuss that you are taking these measures to protect others (showing concern for others and playing cooperatively).
  • If your child has siblings, help them share, play together, and take turns.
  • Look for ways you can help others following current social distancing guidelines (showing concern for others).

Motor Skills

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Motor skill development is still important during a pandemic! And thankfully, you don’t have to think too far out of the box to develop motor skills during Covid-19.

Gross Motor Activities

  • Get outside and run! Climb! Hop, skip, and jump!
  • Go for walks and hikes on uneven surfaces
  • Ride bikes, balance bikes, and scooters
  • Turn on the sprinklers
  • Splash in a kiddie pool
  • Jump on a trampoline
  • Play hopscotch
  • Dance
  • Set up an obstacle course in the backyard

 

Fine Motor Activities

  • Eat finger foods
  • Stack blocks
  • Play with play dough
  • Cook together (let your child measure and stir)
  • Give the toy cars a car wash (include a sponge for squeezing)
  • Cut the lawn with child scissors
  • Draw
  • Play around on the piano
  • Work on puzzles

{Why You Should Care About Fine Motor Skills in Your Preschooler}

Self-Help Skills

This time of social distancing and more time at home is actually the perfect time to work on self-help skills.

This is a time when you can assign age-appropriate chores. Let your child do them on their own as time goes on. As they master skills, continue to add more.

Encourage your child to do what they can do on their own. For example, they can probably get dressed mostly or completely on their own. Let them!

If they’re stuck with something, encourage them to ask questions and ask for help when needed. Don’t jump in with answers before they’ve had the chance to problem solve on their own.

If your child can’t use the restroom on their own, this is the time to coach them on how to do so. Be sure to teach them to wash their hands for 20 seconds.

Make sure your child can eat independently. Pack a lunchbox for them, and see if any part of opening the items is tricky. Then work on those items until your child can do it.

Academic Development

kindergarten readiness Utah

Academic development is what most parents think about when they consider kindergarten readiness. Can my child read? What about adding and subtracting? Can they write their name?

These worries tend to push parents to push children too hard. Please don’t stress about whether your child can read yet. These are important skills, but they are not the most crucial concern at this stage of your child’s life. 

Instead, focus on pre-reading skills. The Utah State Board of Education recommends you work on helping your child with these academic skills:

  • Listening attentively and responding to stories and books  
  • Speaking in complete sentences  
  • Identifying signs, symbols, or logos in the environment
  • Speaking clearly enough to be understood by others  
  • Identifying rhyming words in stories, poems, and songs  
  • Knowing that letters of the alphabet have specific sounds  
  • Identifying the first sound heard in random words  
  • Identifying some uppercase and lowercase letters, including those in their name  
  • Using beginning writing skills (e.g. drawing, scribbling, writing) to express ideas 

As you can see, none of these academic skills will require hours of flashcards. Most of these skills can be developed as you talk with your child, observe your surroundings with your child, and read, read, read with your child!

{8 Ways to Lose the Flashcards: Make Alphabet Learning Fun}

  • When you have conversations with your child, take turns asking questions
  • Ask your child to describe what they see, hear, smell, taste, or feel
  • Point out logos on products
  • Read a variety of books
  • Pause when you read, and ask your child what they think will happen next
  • Point out uppercase letters at the beginning of sentences in books
  • Do an activity together like cooking, and talk about the first sounds of words. “Let’s add the sugar. Ssss is the first sound in sugar.”
  • Let your child draw often, and use a variety of materials
  • Have your child practice writing their first name — use shaving cream, chalk, paint, dry erase on a mirror, and more to make it more fun
  • Work on puzzles

The times are uncertain, but your love for your child hasn’t wavered. Take these skills one day at a time, don’t push your child, and remember that we’ll all make it through.

To learn more about UDA Creative Arts Preschool in Draper, Utah, contact us online or give us a call at (801) 523-5930.

 

Building Better Brains: A Surprising Way to Develop Reading Skills

You’re not even sure potty training is completely mastered for your preschooler, but you’re already feeling the intense pressure to make sure your child knows how to read.

School standards have changed over the years, and younger children are expected to do much more than they were in the past, including mastering reading at a younger age. So it’s natural if you’re feeling worried.

You may want to pull out flashcards, run drills, and sit at the kitchen table practicing letters every afternoon.

But this is boring and difficult, and may disengage your child from learning. We strongly encourage you to take a deep breath and let your child play.

Play?

Yep. Play.

How Play Helps Children Learn Reading Skills

Literacy skills involve higher order cognitive processes. We’re talking: imagining, problem solving, categorizing, and more. Dramatic play also involves these processes, and because it’s so enjoyable, your child will soak up those concepts in real ways that will transfer to reading skills.

In fact, one study found that children who used meta-play talk  (managing play by stepping out of a role to explain something: “I’m the doctor, and you’re the patient”) had a higher level of story comprehension than children who didn’t. Pretend play is important!

Letters Are Symbols

Research has shown that pretend play impacts children’s emergent writing abilities.

Not only that, children are learning about symbolic representation — one object can represent something else. When they understand this, it’s not that hard to make the leap to understanding that letters are symbols that represent something else.

Eventually, your child will have to understand that a string of letters and words takes on a specific meaning. Pretend play will set her up with a rich cognitive foundation.

Communication

Play is all about communication. Your child has to talk about rules, adjust expectations out loud, discuss intentions, and more. This is narration and description, skills that your child will need as he learns to write clearly.

Self-Regulation

Your child will quickly learn she can’t grab toys from other friends, even when she really wants to. She’ll learn that toys need to be cleaned up without meltdowns, and that playtime needs to end. These lessons help her develop self-regulation, which is critical in reading. Reading requires focus, following a story from beginning to end, self-discipline to learn hard things, and more.

Literacy Is Incorporated Into Play

Children pretend to read while they play. They may mark up paper as a list or note. They may jot down someone’s order at their play restaurant, or send a letter to a pretend friend. Getting familiar with the concept of reading and writing in a fun way will help your child be better prepared to learn to read for meaning.

The Play Environment Is Important

The environment in which your child plays can benefit literacy skills in tremendous ways. When a play center is stocked with theme-related reading and writing materials, your child will be more familiar with language.

For example, at UDA Creative Arts Preschool in Draper, we have a play kitchen area. Nearby is a table set up like a restaurant. We include menus, price tags, labeled food containers, and more in the play area. This type of literacy-rich environment has been shown to increase children’s literacy behaviors through play — and to even provide gains in children’s knowledge about writing and recognizing print.

We regularly place labels around the room in our themed play areas and include plenty of writing materials in our literacy-embedded play centers. The children become comfortable imagining while incorporating literacy into their pretend games.

How Can You Encourage Literacy Skills Through Play at Home?

  • Give your child a variety of props and objects to play with. You don’t have to go out and buy the whole toy store. It’s actually helpful for children to use different objects for different pretend items. A wooden play spoon can become a microphone. A handful of matchbox cars can become coins.
  • Show your child how to substitute different items for different things, and then let them use their imagination with other items.
  • Give your child new experiences. Take them to a different park than usual. Go to a museum, the library, the store, and more. When traveling, point out different things you notice. Giving children a variety of experiences helps them expand their play themes.
  • Let your child play with writing materials while playing pretend. (You may want to keep a close eye so that pencil mark stays on paper!)
  • Write labels around your play area: Cars, Dolls, Play Food, etc.
  • Occasionally set up a themed play area, complete with labels: Turn your play kitchen into a restaurant, and make menus with your child. Have the cars go to a car wash, and make labels for soap, water, and more.
  • Show your child how to make props with other items around the house: throw pillows can become thrones, a scarf can be a leash for a pretend pet.
  • Leave books in the play area to encourage your child to incorporate reading into playing.

Everything we do at UDA Creative Arts Preschool in Draper, Utah revolves around play. Our children thrive in this environment, learning crucial skills that will help them in kindergarten and beyond. To learn more or schedule a tour of our preschool, give us a call at (801) 523-5930, or contact us online.

Building Better Brains: Get Ready for Kindergarten with Play

You know your child is happier when she’s allowed to play, but is she getting all her learning needs met? Is she getting ready for kindergarten? Certainly, she should sit down with some worksheets so she can learn to read and write, right?

Actually, while structured learning has its place, one of the best things you can do to get your child ready for kindergarten and help him build a better brain is to allow for play.

Play-based learning is one of the best gifts you can give your child. The bonus is that play will help your child get ready for kindergarten — even if it doesn’t look like it on the surface.

Yes, play will even help your child with reading, writing, and arithmetic. 

Kindergarten Readiness Skills That Are Developed Through Play

When your child and her friend don pirate hats and go in search of hidden gold, they are developing essential kindergarten readiness skills. 

They’re building social skills — negotiating, adapting, taking turns, listening, sharing, problem-solving, and more — which allow them to be more confident. These skills also set them up for more success in academics. A confident child won’t struggle to ask for help or reach out to other children. He’ll also learn from his mistakes. 

In fact, children who attend schools with play-based programs even score better on measures of cognitive flexibility, working memory, and self-regulation — all skills that will help them in the kindergarten classroom… and beyond.

Play also fosters creativity, which fosters both a love of learning and a motivation to learn. No matter how well your child picks up the functions of ABCs and 123s, she’ll need motivation to learn if she’s going to be successful with her knowledge.

Down with Drills

Many of us were taught important concepts with drills. We used flashcards, worksheets, recitations, and more to have concepts hammered into our heads. And while we may have learned some concepts through memorization (and fear of getting them wrong), did we actually take those concepts into ourselves and learn how to use them in real life?

Drills teach children there is only one right answer. This leads to fear of getting the wrong answer, stifled curiosity, and shame and embarrassment for having questions.

When your child is learning to read and enjoy books, do you want stifled curiosity and fear to be the leading emotions in their brain?

Instead, play-based learning allows your child to approach new letter combinations with curiosity and interest. It allows your child to form connections between numbers and their concepts. Reading and math become something that is a fun experience. It’s something that applies to your child’s life, and they can feel confident in their abilities.

Social-Emotional Development — Let’s Be Friends

Don’t underestimate the importance of a healthy social-emotional development in your child’s academics.

Yes, reading, writing, and math are critical life skills. And yes, your child is going to be tested on those for the next 12 years. And yes, the results of those tests are going to influence your child’s college acceptance and future jobs.

Academics are important.

But we tend to focus so strongly on academics (those pesky test scores) that we don’t give enough credit to the other crucial areas of our children’s development. Social-emotional development is actually a crucial component of your child’s academic development (not to mention your child’s holistic development).

Play is one of the best ways for children to develop socially and emotionally. They learn to imagine different perspectives, understand other viewpoints, and how to interact with people who are different.

Children “try on” different lives and roles, coming to understand their world on a new level. Friendships and confidence are developed. They learn to resolve conflict.

And they become empowered in their own decision making, learning to trust their own brains.

Plus, play reduces stress!

Cognitive Development — Building Better Brains

Because we live in a test-based society, academics are of utmost importance to most parents. Fortunately, cognitive development — or the ability for your child to use her intellect — is developed and strengthened through play.

Children learn language and solve problems through play.

They also use math concepts (exchanging money while playing grocery store).

Children build literacy skills (telling stories with beginning, middle, and end, using symbols to represent something else — a key to reading and writing, etc.)

And they even discover science concepts (experimentation: what happens if I do this?, observation, cause and effect, physics of movement, etc.).

Physical Development — It’s Just As Important!

We know we need to make sure our children exercise. But formal, structured exercise is not the only way to go. Play develops both gross and fine motor skills, helps children understand where their body is in space, and gets them moving in fun ways (so they will want to continue!).

Through play, children come in contact with many tactile experiences, helping them understand their world on a deeper level. 

They build their muscles and coordination as they run, hop, skip, climb, and more during active play.

Parents, Relax

If you’re worried about your child’s academic readiness for kindergarten, you aren’t alone. But instead of stressing out, purchasing boatloads of flashcards, and finding a tutor for your child, sit back and let your child play.

Worry less about whether your child can read and write, and look at your child’s skills as a whole. She has many attributes that are going to help her be successful. Value her imagination, problem-solving skills, creativity, and energy as much — or more — than her academic skills. These are the skills that are going to help her be successful in life — and in academics. 

The more she plays and develops confidence through play, the better she’ll be able to handle everything that is expected of her in life and school.

Play is not a waste of time. In fact, it’s the best way your child can occupy their time.

How to Help Your Child Play

  • Give your child open-ended toys. Items like blocks and dress-ups can be used in countless ways.
  • Let your child have open-ended play. Don’t try to guide them to learn a lesson. Let him play how he wants.
  • Play with your child. If you struggle with open-ended play, you can start by playing more structured games (Simon Says; puzzles; Duck, Duck, Goose). In open-ended play, don’t worry about doing it right. Just follow your child’s lead. When you don’t know what to do, ask your child! “What does Princess Mommy do next?” Your child will tell you, and it won’t be as hard as you may have thought.
  • Read stories together, and talk about them. Your child might incorporate elements of the stories into their play.
  • Sing! Learn a few rhyming songs, and sing them while you go about your day. They helpyour child learn concepts and language skills that can be brought into play.
  • Go on family field trips to places that encourage play — the playground, discovery museums, the children’s library, and more.
  • Get outside. Provide your child with fun outside toys like bikes, jump ropes, hula hoops, and chalk.

Everything we do at UDA Creative Arts Preschool in Draper, Utah revolves around play. Our children thrive in this environment, learning crucial skills that will help them in kindergarten and beyond. To learn more or schedule a tour of our preschool, give us a call at (801) 523-5930, or contact us online.