Kindergarten or preschool is the year between childcare and school. It's a big one for our little people. Kindergarten is the year they'll grow and master many skills they need for school and life. They learn to control their emotions and fine-tune their social-emotional skills for school.
We sometimes forget that moving from childcare to kindergarten is also a big deal for preschool-aged kids. Listen to the playground politics of any pre-kindy three-year-old! It's clear their seniors in the kindy or preschool rooms at their centre have levelled up. A lot of growing happens the year before school, and it's an exciting time for everyone.
To get everyone ready for kindergarten, it helps to look at it from your child's point of view.
We start building school routines
Miss Tereza is an experienced teacher from Goodstart Hawthorne, who understands the importance of the year before school. She explains, ‘We use the kindergarten year as a soft intro from early learning to the structure and routines of school. Children can still play and pursue their interests,’ says Tereza, 'but we explore topics in-depth. This opens their awareness to experimentation, science and asking questions. It shows them how we can influence events.'
Tereza explains they also prepare for school using the following:
Large group learning sessions to prepare the children for classrooms as the year progresses.
Adapt their meal routines.
Reduce their structured rest times because (unfortunately!) they don’t nap at school.
By the end of their preschool year, Tereza and her team have adjusted their kindergarten day to match a school routine. This prepares the children for the expectations that come with classroom learning.
'Part of the program teaches children to be responsible for their own belongings. This is an extension of being responsible for themselves. They develop a sense of self to aid them in future learning and endeavours.'
Using play to develop their school-ready skills
'We focus on the skills they need for school readiness. These are language, literacy, numeracy, and social-emotional skills.'
She continues, 'We teach children what they need to know to transition into school. Where we differ from school is that we do it in a play-based learning environment. We base what we learn on children's interests. This makes learning relevant and important to them, making them more likely to engage. Play fuels their curiosity and interest in gaining more knowledge. We still learn about STEM, history, geography, science, nature and sustainability. The curriculum isn't as structured or time-dependent as it is in school."
When parents ask, 'Why now? 'Why in kindergarten?' Tereza explains that 'Kindergarten children have more developed language. They have better cognitive skills than their early-learning peers in childcare. We can start giving them problem-solving skills and focus on helping them think about their actions and consequences. For example, if a pre-kinder child acts out, we say, 'It's not nice to do that'. For kindergarten children, we help them express the motivation behind their actions. We ask them what could they have done differently. We also ask them what they could do to recover and repair a situation if needed.'
Helping them develop social-emotional skills is key
'Social-emotional skills are essential for learning. It's one of the biggest focus areas in the kindergarten year. Before starting school, it's helpful if children can:
label their feelings
relate to others
understand that actions have consequences (even if they're still figuring out what those look like).
'We give strategies to children with low self-regulation skills. We can teach and talk as much as we want. Knowing how to self-regulate appropriately helps them most when dealing with school challenges.'
'We also have conversations with families about strategies at home for their child. Then, they can replicate what works in our centre at home. It means we're all giving the child the same consistent messages.'
Finally, Tereza reminds us, 'It takes a combined effort of teachers, families, and the child themselves to develop the right skills to transition to school.'