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What your child needs to know before starting school

What your child needs to know before starting school

The “Three R’s”: reading, writing and ‘rithmatic, are still key facets of a child’s education, but the emphasis is now placed largely on a new saying, the “Six Cs”. These stand for skills that will bring our children into the global workforce of the 21st century: creativity, communication, confidence, critical thinking, collaboration, and content.

These are the necessary skills outlined in “Becoming Brilliant in the 21st Century, the 6 Cs” by Golinkoff and Hirsh-Pasek. The rationale is that these skills, when taught early and reinforced throughout school, will shape children into the type of thinkers needed to solve the problems of our world and help children reach their maximum potential.

As a pediatric occupational therapist, I love the idea of these Six Cs because it takes learning to a new level and allows creativity and innovation which is largely rooted in play and exploration. Does that mean we can finally bring play back into the classroom? The experts say “yes” but it is a guarded “yes” – and it comes with a caveat.

Experts recommend “guided play”. Research tells us that kids learn the most when an adult is there to steer their play in the proper direction, asking questions, affirming and re-affirming their actions.

If children need to learn their shapes, a teacher might put shaped blocks on the floor and say “go play”. The children would have fun, but would not necessarily learn. A teacher could also stand in front of a class and perform a structured lesson on shapes – but most children are hands-on learners.

With guided play, a teacher gets down on the floor and plays with the shaped blocks with the children and says “this is a triangle, it has three sides. Who else can find a triangle with three sides? Let’s stack the rectangles…” The children here are more likely to learn their shapes.

So, let’s take a look at how we can integrate guided play and the Six Cs into preparing your child for kindergarten.

Creativity

Provide opportunities to challenge your child’s creativity. Do simple arts and crafts, play dress-up and put on skits or puppet shows. Encourage your child to tell stories or draw characters and use finger puppets. Integrate fine motor skills by cutting out characters and acting out a scene with your child.

Communication

Babies are communicating in their own way from the moment they are born. Reinforce this by talking to your children all day long. Encourage them to talk about feelings and share their thoughts. As you read a book to your child, pause to ask what she thinks about the story, ask questions and encourage her to make up her own endings before finishing the book. Give your child the language and vocabulary to express herself and help her practice speaking for herself in new and different situations.

Confidence

Parents build their child’s confidence every day, simply by providing a safe and secure home with structure and routines. Continue this through guided play by affirming her actions, using encouraging words and supporting your child in different activities.

Critical thinking

Lay the groundwork for critical thinking by asking “wh” questions such as “What do you think will happen if I pour a drop of oil into this cup of water?” Allow your child to make a hypothesis, then test his hypothesis. Encourage discussion on what the expectations and outcomes are. This can be very simple for preschool children. “What color do you think this cucumber will be on the inside when I cut it in half?...Ok, let’s see if you are right.” Or “Where does the water go when it goes down the drain?”

Collaboration

The simple skill of taking turns requires collaboration, and babies take turns talking to you as early as four months when they begin to babble in response to your voice. Understanding the pause and flow of conversation is an early form of collaboration. Build on this by offering more opportunities through play dates, group activities, playing games that require turn-taking, and working together with your child to complete a simple task. “Let’s clean up these toys together, I will pick up the blocks and you pick up the Legos.”

Content

Content is definitely the broadest “C”. Children should have the following under their belt on the first day of school:

Letters and words:

Recognize and name at least 10 letters of the alphabet.

Match letters with the beginning sounds of words:  B, Banana.

Recognize rhyming words: cat, hat.

Recognize letters of their name.

Understand concepts such as top/bottom, big/little.

Use the words “more” and “less” correctly.

Recognize and name at least 5 colors.  

Speaking:

Speak in complete sentences.

Follow directions with at least two steps.

Ask questions about the world around them.  

Reading:

Re-tell simple stories after listening to them.

Make simple predictions about the story being read to them.

Hold a book appropriately, turn pages and look at pictures and some words to get an idea of the story.  

Numbers and shapes:

Count from 1 to 20 in order.

Put written numerals in order from 1 to 10.

Draw a line, a circle, an X and a plus sign.

Recognize and name simple shapes.  

Concepts (same, different, patterns):

See the number three and understand this means three objects.

Add and subtract familiar objects, such as pieces of cereal.

Match two pictures that are alike.

Sort items into like categories.

Put three pictures in order by sequence: Planting a flower seed, flower growing, picking a flower.  

Self care:

Put on a jacket independently.

Attempt zippers and buttons.

Attempt to tie shoes.

Use bathroom and wash hands independently.

Open food containers independently.

Use good habits (chew with mouth closed, cover mouth when coughing).

Tell first and last name, full address and telephone number.

Recognize dangerous or harmful objects or situations.  

Gross motor skills:

Run, jump, and hop on one foot with ease.

Balance on one foot with hands on hips for ten seconds.

Stand on tip toes for eight seconds.

Imitate movements.

Do at least five sit-ups.

Skip for at least ten steps.

Throw ball underhand and catch ball in both hands.

Kick a ball.  

Fine motor skills:

Hold a pencil and crayon with tripod (three finger) grasp.

Trace letters, shapes and numbers.

Write the letters of their name.

Write numbers one to ten.

Cut out patterns with scissors.

Lace string through lacing cards.

Draw a circle, triangle, rectangle and cross.  

Social/emotional skills:

Appropriately resolve conflicts with playmates.

Express ideas through pictures drawn.

Start and join in conversations with adults and other children.

Say “please” and “thank you”.

Demonstrate happiness and sadness appropriately.

Accept changes in routine.

Ask for help when needed.

Follow directions and rules.

Demonstrate coping skills.

Help with clean-up.

Wait their turn.

Respect others personal space.

Aimee E. Ketchum is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.

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