The importance of early childhood education cannot be overstated. Mountains of scientific evidence state that the first five years of a child’s life sets the stage for their later development and success at school and in life. Despite this knowledge and the many pre-school programs available, one in four Canadian children is NOT prepared for the first day of school. These children arrive with social, behavioural and learning difficulties already so entrenched that their entire academic experience will be compromised. Research gathered by The Learning Partnership’s Policy and Knowledge Mobilization division clearly demonstrates that children who exhibit learning and social challenges at age five are more likely to drop out of high school than those who come to school ready to learn.
While that question is being discussed by early childhood learning experts and federal, provincial and municipal governments, one thing is clear: parents and guardians have perhaps the most important role in a child’s early development.
The Learning Partnership’s Welcome to Kindergarten program is based on the understanding that parents are a child’s first and best teachers. Every spring, at schools across the country, families attend Welcome to Kindergarten orientations that focus on parents’ roles in preparing young children for school, the importance of making time for play and discovery, talking and listening while playing and discovering together, recognizing and celebrating their children’s successes and reading with their preschoolers in their first language.
So what exactly can parents do to get their little ones prepared for Kindergarten? They can help their children practise the following skills that are the foundation for a successful transition to school.
- Sharing with other children and taking turns
- Enjoying stories and being able to listen for short periods
- Looking at pictures and then telling stories
- Recognizing rhyming sounds
- Identifying some alphabet letters
- Counting to 10
- Showing an understanding of general times of day
- Using safety scissors (hand and finger strength and coordination)
- Holding a pencil and beginning to master basic writing skills such as recognizing and drawing shapes
- Sorting similar objects by colour, size, and shape
- Recognizing groups of one, two, three, four, and five objects
- Bouncing a large ball
At the Welcome to Kindergarten orientations, parents and their children also receive a bag containing magnetic letters and numbers, counting and story books, a CD of songs, crayons, a pencil, a glue stick, safety scissors, coloured construction paper, an activity ball and a parent information pamphlet. Mums, dads and kids then take part in activities using these resources and are encouraged to continue them over the summer. By September, their children’s transition to Kindergarten should be happy, smooth – and successful. The foundation will have been laid for a lifetime love of learning.
Do you agree that more attention needs to be paid to early childhood education? How has your child benefitted from all day Kindergarten? What changes would you like our federal, provincial and territorial governments to make regarding educating the very young? Let us know.
National Program Manager
Welcome to Kindergarten