Kathy Holt

With so many life-changing events happening in 2020, many are more than ready to say good-bye to the old year and welcome to the new. As we enter 2021, this is a friendly reminder that it is only seven months until the start of the 2021-2022 school year. It may seem like a long time away, but this time will pass quickly!

If your child turns five years old by August 15, 2021, he or she meets the age requirement to enroll in kindergarten. Schools will be scheduling kindergarten registration in the spring. It is extremely important that parents and caregivers attend the kindergarten registration during this early registration time and not wait until the beginning of the school year. Not only will the families receive valuable information about kindergarten requirements and expectations, this early registration allows the school to plan for how many children will be attending, including how many classes and teachers will be needed for the new school year.

Continuing the Count Down to Kindergarten awareness campaign to help families know what skills are expected for kindergarten readiness, the skill to practice for January is picture vocabulary. Children entering kindergarten need to be able to recognize and name frequently seen items, such as child, boy, girl, dog, cat, tree, leaf, apple, orange, banana, car, truck, airplane, train, bus, cup, plate, fork, and spoon. This is only a small list of examples of picture vocabulary words. Parents/caregivers should consider things that children see frequently such as items in the house like picture, chair, rug, and others. The list might include items the child plays with such as toy, ball, and doll.

While parents/caregivers may ask children to name the actual object, such as a car, the child will be expected to identify the object from a picture. To practice this skill, children should be shown pictures of these frequently seen items. This is best done through books, coloring books, and picture cards. When reading with the child, the parent/caregiver can ask the child to identify the pictures on the page.

The gross motor skill for January is throwing and catching a ball. While this may seem easy for the adult, this skill takes a lot of eye – hand coordination for the child which must be practiced for success. Start with a ball that is a size easy for the child to throw and catch. As the skill is developed, children will be able to throw and catch balls of different sizes. When throwing and catching a ball, it is a good time to also practice counting!

The small muscle skill for January is using scissors. This is a skill that some parents/caregivers fear for safety reasons. This is understandable as no one wants the child to be hurt. However, it is important that children learn to hold and use scissors. The critical things to remember are that the scissors be child appropriate and that the child always has adult supervision when using the scissors. Using child appropriate scissors, the child should practice cutting out pictures, shapes, letters, numbers, etc. Since the pictures are normally larger, coloring pages are good places to start with cutting out pictures.

When practicing these and any previous kindergarten readiness skills, there are five actions that grow a child’s brain power. LOOK- Children use their eyes to learn. See what catches your child’s eye and talk about it. Make eye-to-eye contact, then smile, hug, or make funny faces! FOLLOW- Young children learn best when you follow their lead. Tune into your child’s words, sounds, ideas, and movements! Then respond with your own words and actions. CHAT-Children’s brains light up when you talk, sing, or make sounds back and forth with them. Chat about your day, food, and what’s around you. Let this become a fun conversation! TAKE TURNS- Children learn from taking turns when you play, talk, or explore. After they go, take your turn. STRETCH- Children’s brains grow strong when you help them stretch their learning further. Keep a moment going by asking your child a question that starts with what, when, where, how, or why!

Other brain building tips can be found at www.vroom.org.

As always, practicing kindergarten readiness skills should be fun for both the child and adult. Every parent/caregiver has what is needed to help the child be kindergarten ready. It just takes including the kindergarten readiness skills in your interactions with your child during your daily routines.

If the weather permits and you are looking for a fun outdoors activity, the Rural Accelerator Initiative has partnered with a couple of organizations in the county to develop Born Learning Trails. These are located at the Newport City Park and the Cosby Rural Medical Center. The Born Learning Trail is a series of ten interactive signs located along the walking path. Caregivers and children engage in fun activities and conversation. Check out the trails at these two locations.

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