Kathy Holt

Kathy Holt

COCKE COUNTY—With school scheduled to begin in just a few weeks, it is an important time for parents and caregivers to continue to plan and prepare for their children to enter kindergarten. Continuing the Count Down to Kindergarten awareness campaign sponsored by Cocke County Cradle to Career Coalition, it is the hope of the team that the information and resources provided over the past year has been helpful as children transition to school.

As a reminder, children who are five years old on or before August 15, 2021 are eligible to enroll in kindergarten for the 2021-2022 school year. All children who will be attending kindergarten should have been registered during kindergarten registration in the spring. If, however, a child was not registered during that time, the parent/caregiver should contact the school of enrollment immediately.

It is also critical for parents/caregivers to know that immunization and physical requirements for kindergarten entry have NOT CHANGED for the upcoming year. All children will need to have their shots and physicals done before school begins. Parents/caregivers should contact the child’s doctor or the Cocke County Health Department at 423-623-8733 to schedule an appointment.

To support the Count Down to Kindergarten program, kindergarten teachers distributed summer kindergarten readiness kits during June to students who had registered in the spring. The teachers also made phone and virtual contact with the students to support their summer learning. These kits contained multiple resources and information to help children with developing kindergarten readiness skills.

Cocke County Cradle to Career Coalition is supporting the Save the Children Summer Reading Challenge for incoming kindergarten children. Reading with your child is one of the most important things that a parent/caregiver can do. Reading with your child teaches vocabulary, imagination, and comprehension; aids in language development; and creates a lifetime interest in reading. Parents/caregivers of children entering kindergarten this year are challenged to read 2-3 books per day to their children. It should be noted that it is just as important to read the same book over and over as to read new books. If all parents/caregivers read just 3 books to their children each day in July, the kindergarten class of 2021-2022 will enter school having been read almost 30,000 books just in the month of July!!

As a reminder, the cognitive skills that have been introduced through Count Down to Kindergarten over the past year include personal information (full name, address, phone number, and birthday), reciting and recognizing all upper and lower case letters, counting and writing numbers to 25, naming colors (red, blue, green, yellow, orange, purple, brown, black, pink, gray, and white), picture vocabulary (recognizing and naming frequently seen items), naming shapes (circle, square, rectangle, triangle, plus sign, and minus sign), naming parts of the body, matching a quantity with the corresponding numeral, and printing first and last name (using upper case letter for first letter of first and last name, but lower case letters for all others).

Each month, suggestions were also made to help children develop their gross and fine motor skills. These skills included running, hoping, skipping, standing on one foot, walking heel-to-toe, tossing and catching a ball, using a pencil (crayons and markers) correctly to write name and draw shapes, picking up small objects such as coins or game pieces, and zipping and unzipping a jacket or backpack.

Finally, it is important for children to practice personal skills that will be needed when kindergarten starts. These include allowing your child to select his/her own clothes and dress him/herself. This skill helps both the child and adult, especially in getting out the door and to school on time.

Practice meal routines. Regardless if you plan to pack your child’s lunch or if the child will eat school prepared meals, provide your child opportunities to practice opening containers that may be needed during snack and/or lunch. These might include a lunch box, snack box, chip bag, fruit pouch, bottle of juice or water, etc.

It is critical that children learn to follow instructions. Give your child specific one and two step instructions to follow. Can your child go to the next room and bring back a red shirt that you want him/her to wear?

Along this same line, children need to be able to clean up every day. Expect your child to pick up toys, put away clothes/shoes, and clean up his/her play area every day. This helps your child learn responsibility and cooperation.

As we return from the pandemic to a more normal school year, it is still essential that your child practice good personal hygiene. Properly washing of hands is always important. The recommendation for washing hands is at least twenty (20) seconds with soap and warm water. A recent article stated that the rinsing and drying of hands is just as important to eliminate the spread of infectious diseases. Be sure your child thoroughly rinses all soap from his/her hands and dries them completely.

Entering kindergarten can be stressful for both parents/caregivers and children. Covid-19 has increased anxiety for many families, and a higher number of children will be entering kindergarten this year having not attended an early childhood education program. Take time to talk to your child about what to expect at school. Take time to listen to your child and answer his/her questions. Keep your answers simple and easy for your child to understand. If you don’t know an answer, tell your child you don’t know but that you will try to find the answer. Take the opportunity to learn together. Always, encourage your child to ask questions and to talk about things that are bothering him/her. When children understand what is going on around them, they feel safer.

As always, practicing kindergarten readiness skills should be fun for both the child and adult. Every parent/caregiver has what it takes to help a child be ready for kindergarten. It does not take expensive toys or products; it simply takes interaction between the adult and child, using what is already around the house to develop the child’s cognitive and motor skills. During the next few weeks, enjoy time with your child and have fun as you both get ready for kindergarten.

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