How to Prepare Social and Emotional Skills for Kindergarten

Although September seems far away, it is never too early to help prepare your young child for kindergarten. Going to school exposes children to new people and new learning experiences. Not only do young children need to be academically prepared, there are also important social and emotional skills they will need in order to be successful.

Be able to listen and follow directions.

     Things you can do at home:

  1. Make sure you have your child’s attention before giving directions. At schools they may use non-verbal cues such as a handclap or ring a bell, or a phrase such as “Eyes on me.”
  2. Speak in a normal to quiet volume while giving directions. You may need to use a firm tone at times. A loud voice or yelling does not make a child listen or follow directions better. When children are yelled at often it desensitizes them and prevents them determining when a situation is urgent or an emergency.
  3. Use wait time. Wait time is a common teaching practice at schools. Give your child a few seconds (3-10 seconds) to process what is being asked of them. If after those 10 seconds your child is still not following your directions, repeat them.

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Can play or work independently without constant supervision.

     Things you can do at home:

  1. Find an activity or toy they enjoy playing with.
  2. Begin by moving a short distance away from your child with a book or something to do.
  3. Be a passive observer. Most of us tend to interact/interfere with our children’s play when they may not necessarily need or want us to. When your child needs you, they will speak up.
  4. Incorporate independent time into your child’s daily routine. After getting into a routine, slowly move your distance farther from your child to give them more space and independence (never leaving them unattended or in an unsafe situation).

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Can communicate needs and feelings appropriately.

     Things you can do at home:

  1. Help your child identify their emotions by building their vocabulary. Help your child name their emotion and encourage them to communicate what triggered the emotion.
  2. Model how to communicate positive and negative emotions. When it is appropriate, take time to explain to your child when you are excited or disappointed and why.
  3. Be accepting of your child’s emotions. Many adults inadvertently disregard a child’s emotions by saying things like, “Calm down.” This does not teach children how to deal with their feelings in a socially accepted manner. Instead, acknowledge the emotion they are feeling while still addressing any inappropriate behaviors. (“It is very exciting to go to the store to buy your toy. Even though you are excited you still need to follow the rules and be safe. It is not okay to run in the parking lot.”)

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Going to school is a huge milestone for young children. In addition to gaining academic knowledge, children will meet new adults, build peer relationships with classmates, and be put in unfamiliar social situations. With a strong social and emotional foundation, your child will be able to make the most of these new experiences and have a successful school year.