Early childhood education is proven to set an important foundation for kindergarten.
But it can be hard to know what skills are the most important when preparing your child for elementary school!
One of the most valuable skills for any child entering kindergarten is self-regulation. So much of the elementary school experience involves listening and following directions and waiting. Children who have patience and can control their impulses have a much easier transition into kindergarten.
There are many ways you can help your child learn self-control.
Here are some simple tips to encourage patience in your child:
Play games to encourage self-regulation
Classic children’s games like “Simon Says” and “Red Light, Green Light,” are great for encouraging self-control. Any activity that forces children to be in control of their bodies or minds is great for developing regulation skills.
Try games that force children to start or stop in an instant. Musical chairs or a “freeze” game where children freeze when the music stops are good examples of this.
The classic game “Jenga” is also a great way to practice self-regulation. The game requires children to control their hand movements to prevent the tower from falling. They have to be patient and steady to win.
Work on memory
Working memory is how humans can recall information in the moment. It allows us to understand what we are hearing, which is very important for kindergarten students. Kindergarteners need to be able to remember directions to follow them appropriately.
Just like self-regulation, playing memory games is a great way to improve your child’s working memory capacity. Memory match games are simple but have a big pay off. You can make the game more difficult by adding more cards.
Children who have secure attachments are more likely to have a strong working memory. Creating a peaceful home environment with routines will help your child access more of their working memory throughout the day.
This can extend into new experiences as well. Do you ever find yourself forgetting simple things when feeling stressed or anxious? Worrying uses up a lot of working memory. Help your child prepare for new experiences like going to school by talking through what they can expect and discussing their worries. The more secure your child feels at school, the more of their memory they’ll be able to use.
Teach emotional regulation skills
Children who can notice, name, and regulate their strong emotions are more successful in school. They can use their words to tell their teacher why they are upset. This is so important in a classroom with many children, as the teacher has to attend to the other students. A teacher can immediately help problem-solve with a child who can clearly explain why they are upset.
There are a few important aspects of teaching emotional regulation: vocabulary, calming skills, and problem-solving. You can work on all three at home and help your child prepare better for school.
Give meaning to your child’s emotions. Starting this at a young age will help children learn the important vocabulary needed to express themselves. When you notice your child is upset, tell them what you think is happening: “It seems like you’re sad about something. Is that right?” Use emotion words like sad, angry, scared, and disappointed.
Encourage your child to share their feelings with you, and listen without judgment. Treating their emotions as valid helps them gain confidence in expressing them with their words.
When your child is upset, encourage them to practice self-care. Some ways children can calm themselves include a hug from a caregiver, using a security object like a blanket or stuffed animal, going to a quiet space, having some time alone, or reading a familiar book.
It is so important that children have problem-solving skills when they enter kindergarten. They will face conflicts with peers at school. Children who can work through those conflicts effectively will have much more success.
Teach children to brainstorm ways to solve problems that upset them. When you are talking to them about a situation, ask the child “What do you think we should do? How can we fix this?”
At first, the child may not have any ideas. That’s ok. You can give them suggestions for constructive ways to solve conflicts. Before long, the child will learn some ways to solve typical problems and be able to suggest those solutions themselves.
Have quiet time every day
Regular rest helps improve self-regulation. Make sure your child has time during their day to recharge their brain. A day full of stimuli can decrease the effectiveness of self-regulatory skills. Taking the time to rest can help children be more successful in the second half of their day.
Even if your child is not interested in napping, having “quiet time” still has many benefits. Avoid screens or stimulating toys during quiet time. Instead, offer books and stuffed animals. Create a peaceful space by lowering the lights, closing the curtains, and even putting on some relaxing music.
Just like daily quiet time, getting enough sleep at night is extremely important for children to self-regulate. Make sure your child is getting the recommended amount of sleep each night.