Ever wish you could have a cup of coffee with your child’s kindergarten teacher and get the inside scoop? We asked eight kindergarten teachers around the country to share their best tips so you can successfully navigate your little one’s special year with their advice.
“Read stories to your children. I know it’s an important beginning of reading readiness, but that’s not my primary goal at first. We are hardwired for story. It’s like a magic spell. Even my wiggliest kindergartner cannot resist its power. Reading stories builds rapport. It helps the children to know me, to get in the habit of listening to me and to trust me. Once that’s in place, they’re ready to learn from me.”—Sean Finn, kindergarten teacher at Griffin School in Olympia, Wash.
Be intentional about surrounding your child with a musical environment! Whether it’s an educational music CD in the van ride to practice or just the routine of singing and rhyming when everyone’s at play, getting musical with your child is paramount for developing a strong vocabulary, triggering recall and strengthening social skills during the kindergarten year.”—Pete Harry, kindergarten teacher at Myers Elementary School in Bellwood, Pa., and owner of Harry Kindergarten“
“Consistently set the bar high. Most kindergarteners will rise to the occasion! I am a huge proponent of teaching 5- and 6-year-olds to be independent. There are so many ways they can take responsibility for themselves and their actions. They are responsible for keeping our classroom clean, cleaning up after themselves after snack, unpacking in the mornings and packing up in the afternoon. Offer similar opportunities at home, take a step back and see how capable your kindergartener is!”—Ronda Thomas, kindergarten teacher at Oak Mountain Elementary School in Birmingham, Ala.
“Let your kindergartner laugh, play and even make messes: bake, make homemade Play-Doh, plant a garden, blow bubbles and make forts with blankets or boxes. Listen closely when they share the most amazing thing they learned at school each day. Do not lose sight of what kindergarten is meant to be: a time when children can be children and a place where their hearts can be nurtured, friendships formed, social skills strengthened and laughter is encouraged.”—Darilynn Caston, kindergarten teacher at Redoubt Elementary School in Soldotna, Alaska, and blogger at Kinder Glitter
Practice Zipping, Tying and Buttoning
“There is one of me and as many as 25 5-year-olds. That’s 50 shoelaces, 25 pants buttons and 25 coat zippers. That is a battle I cannot win. Work on these skills at home. Giving your child independence with shoelaces, zippers and buttons makes kindergarten a much more rewarding place. And with less time tying, zipping and buttoning, we can learn more and have more time to play with glitter! And you help keep a kindergarten teacher a little more sane.”—Greg Smedley-Warren, kindergarten teacher at Fall Hamilton Enhanced Option School in Nashville, Tenn., and blogger at Smedley’s Smorgasbord Kindergarten
“Students who have strong oral language will have greater academic success. Build oral language by snagging time every day to have real conversations. Resist the urge to put on the DVD player while driving in the car. This is a perfect moment to talk! Ask your child questions and help them to respond in complete sentences. You can also play games such as ‘I Spy’ while on the go or preparing dinner: ‘I spy something that starts with B’ or ‘I spy something that rhymes with star.’ These early literacy skill builders can be slipped into even the busiest of schedules.”—Deedee Wills, kindergarten teacher at Owensville Elementary School in Owensville, Mo., and blogger at Mrs. Wills’ Kindergarten
“Ask your kindergartener’s teacher if you can volunteer in the classroom. Tell your child in advance that you are coming to be with the whole class, not just your child. Follow all safety and security procedures, such as signing in at the office and prominently wearing your visitor badge. Enter the classroom inconspicuously and wave and smile at your child from across the room, but encourage your child to remain with the lesson or activity. As you circulate, help children other than your child. Do not judge or discuss the abilities and behaviors of other people’s children. Parent volunteers can be such a blessing!”—Jennifer Cook, literacy coach and former kindergarten teacher at Greenville Elementary School in Greenville, Wis.
Spend Time Together
“As a kindergarten teacher and a mother to a 6-year-old, I encourage you to take time and listen to your kindergartener. You can gain so much knowledge! Your son or daughter will be thinking, ‘I love it when you talk to me about my work. I love it when you read to me.’ When you show a genuine interest in their life, you cannot imagine the love they feel and the confidence they develop. I urge you to put down social media and turn off the TV and move to the floor to play with them, discover with them and learn from them. Give them ‘us time’ every day. Make them feel like they are the most important thing in your life.”—Katie Mills, kindergarten teacher at Cassidy Elementary School in Lexington, Ky.