A smooth transition to school life

A smooth transition to school life
It won’t be long before your preschooler starts kindergarten. In fact, she may even be starting this September. Is she ready for this big step?

It won’t be long before your preschooler starts kindergarten. In fact, she may even be starting this September. Is she ready for this big step?

Kindergarten is part of preschool and ensures a smooth transition from home or daycare to school. Kindergarten activities are based on play and aim to foster a child’s overall development. Dancing, puzzles and role-play are therefore part of the curriculum. Other, more academic activities may be included, but they too are presented as play. One of the goals of kindergarten is to prepare preschoolers for grade one. It’s only then that students formally learn to read, write and do arithmetic.

Many parents think that children need to know how to tie their shoelaces or write their name before they start kindergarten. Rest assured : it’s no big deal if your child is not there yet. Each child develops at their own pace. Between ages 4 and 5, your preschooler’s brain develops exponentially. Your child may suddenly develop great curiosity and a thirst for learning that wasn’t there a few weeks prior. “It’s not uncommon for a child to bridge the gap with other students in a few short months. It’s often a question of maturity,” explains Serge J. Larivée, Associate Dean in Research and Graduate Studies with the Faculty of Education at Université de Montréal.

Kindergarten teachers therefore observe where their young students are on their learning curve. “They then try to prepare them as much as possible for grade one,” he says. It’s a type of levelling so everyone can start grade one on the right foot.

In Quebec, according to the Quebec Survey of Child Development in Kindergarten conducted among 65,000 students, one kindergarten child in four faces some challenges in at least one aspect of their development. For example, a child may communicate orally with ease but find relations with others difficult. The teacher can help her improve this competency by organizing activities that include role-play. When teachers read stories to their students and teach them songs, they promote language development and pave the way for reading. In cases where teachers note more specific challenges, they may call in specialists such as speech therapists or resource teachers to help.

Getting ready for kindergarten

At home, it’s the little things you do every day that prepare your child for kindergarten. When you give her enough time to dress herself, your preschooler learns to be more independent; when she plays with her friends at the park on occasion, she learns to communicate with others; and when you measure ingredients for a recipe with her, you introduce her to math at the same time.

In kindergarten, learning occurs mostly through play.

It’s better to set aside time to have fun and talk with your child than to try to teach her specific things. “Get inspired by your child’s interests when she plays or when you do an activity together,” suggests Serge J. Larivée. For example, if your preschooler scribbles something and says she’s writing her name, use the moment to show her a few letters. But there’s no point in insisting if she refuses to do it or finds it too difficult. She simply may not be ready. Another opportunity will no doubt present itself later. Learning is a lot more effective when it’s fun.

School at 4 years old
In Quebec, there are two measures in place to promote the development of preschoolers to help them integrate school.
The Passe-Partout program. This program includes a series of 16 free sessions during the year preceding kindergarten. Usually, eight of these sessions are for both parents and children, and the other eight for children only. These meetings aim to provide a progressive and positive transition to school. If the program is not offered in your school, you can usually register in another. If you’re interested, contact your school or school board as the number of places may be limited.
Kindergarten at 4 years old. Some schools in disadvantaged neighbourhoods include full-time classes for 4-year-olds. The aim is to promote their overall development and prepare them for their first steps in learning. Registration priority may be given to children who live in a more disadvantaged sector, who have never been to daycare or who don’t speak French, for example.

Don’t do too much

As parents, it can be tempting to push our children to get a head start (e.g. knowing the whole alphabet) before entering kindergarten. However, if you insist too much on your preschooler learning certain things, she may get discouraged and lose motivation. She may even no longer want to go to school. Furthermore, stress may affect her sleep and give her headaches or stomach aches. If she’s too far ahead of the rest, she may also get bored in class or be less motivated in school.

Kindergarten and academic achievement
Children who like to learn and are enthusiastic about school from kindergarten have a higher chance of staying in school longer. It’s therefore important to encourage them! However, your preschooler’s skills in kindergarten do not indicate with any certainty how your child will perform later. Even if your child has learning disabilities, she can still succeed in school with the help of teachers and specialists.

Naître et grandir

Source : Naître et grandir magazine, July-August 2016
Research and copywriting : Nathalie Côté and Julie Leduc
Scientific Review : Maryse Rondeau, Kindergarten Teacher and Chair of the Association d’éducation préscolaire du Québec Board of Directors

Photo : Nicolas St-Germain