As the school year approaches, many parents often wonder if their child is developing all of the skills they will need to succeed in kindergarten. Parents can agonize over how their child will stack up when compared to same-age peers once “big” school starts. It’s important to keep in mind that there is a very wide range of “normal” in this age group and that children tend to acquire skills very quickly. If your child has not developed a certain skill, chances are that with time and exposure, he or she will quickly catch up.
While there is no perfect checklist to track a child’s development, certain skills are important for kindergarten success. Ask yourself, can my child….
- sustain attention to a task for more than a few minutes
- follow multiple step directions
- answer simple questions about a story that is read to her
- answer questions that require problem solving (i.e. “What do you do when you are thirsty?”)
- understand spatial concepts such as over, under, beside
- understand qualitative concepts such as more and most
- ask questions or ask for help when she doesn’t understand
- use pronouns accurately
- retell a simple story
- speak in sentences 4-6 words in length
- speak intelligibly 80-100% of the time (some sounds may develop later such as “r,” “l,” and “th”; however, speech should be completely intelligible to unfamiliar listeners)
- engage in dramatic play (i.e. playing house)
- engage in play WITH other children, as opposed to parallel play
- participate in a conversation
- understand the concept of rhyming
- understand how books work (i.e. page turning, reading left to right)
What can a parent do to encourage these skills at home? Lots! First and foremost, it is vital to read to your child every day. Even if they are moving around the room while you read, it counts! Don’t feel like you have to read every word on a page. Even if you just name pictures, you are still engaging with your child in a very meaningful way.
Talking with your child every day is also essential to their development. Even if they can’t yet participate in a conversation, by talking with your child, you are showing them that what they think and say are important to you. Don’t feel like you have to keep up a constant monologue either. While it is important to talk to your child frequently, it’s also important to pause frequently. Allow for quiet time to give your child a chance to respond. Let him practice all of the new words he is learning.
It’s also important to remember that the best way to teach any skill at this age is through playful interaction. While flash cards and iPads have their place, the best learning takes place when parents are fully engaged, communicate meaningfully, provide ample opportunities for interactions, and are playful with their children. Limit screen time to one hour or less per day to maximize interaction and play time. There is no substitute for play!
If you think that your child needs help with speech/language or kindergarten readiness skills, contact us!
Amy Poteat is the on staff Speech Language Pathologist at Key Changes Therapy Services. She joined our team in 2014 and has over 15 years experience in the field of pediatric speech therapy.