Prepare your child for a new stage of independence.

It’s good if you think about the entry of your little one into this new world in advance. Like always, preparation can help a lot. Here is what’s important for your toddler:

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Social skills – listening, taking turns, sharing, following directions – are vital. If your child doesn’t know how to make friends or borrow things, she or he won’t be able to share classroom materials with her or his peers. If your toddler can’t follow three-part instructions or sit still for the 20 minutes it takes to do a project, she or he will lag behind. And any student who’s struggling not to speak out of turn will have trouble focusing on the lesson. Good teachers strive to make classes fun, so what your child does in school may seem like play. But the work children do really is important for learning. A picture, for instance, is rarely just a picture. It’s about listening. Did the child draw what she or he was told to draw? Sometimes we talk about shapes: What shape is a house? Can you draw that?

Singing songs subtly introduces kids to memorization, rhythm, and tempo, all of which will come in handy for learning reading, math, and science. Something as simple as cutting and pasting can hone fine motor skills, as well as teach such lessons as patience and how to follow instructions.

Children need a broad range of experiences. From such eye-openers as museums to fun activities like combing the seashore for shells, broadening your child’s world is a smart move. Diverse activities can also help increase vocabulary. One of the best predictors of a child’s later success as a reader is the size of her vocabulary when she or he begins school. Helping your child explore her or his corner of the world will provide her or him with the chance to learn new words associated with visits to zoos, forests, lakes, stores, libraries, and so forth.

Teachers say they can pick out the children whose parents do everything for them: In reading groups, they want to be told the words instead of applying sounds; or, when it’s their turn to write, they wait to be told which words to put down.

It helps your child:

to be familiar with the letters of the alphabet (uppercase) and the sounds they make.
to be able to hold a pencil and safety scissors.
to know how to print their first name or even just the first letter of their name.
to be able to recognize basic shapes.
to be able to count from one to ten and identify those numbers.
to count out objects correctly (blocks, crayons, and so on) and be familiar with the idea that numbers are used to measure things (four cemtimeters tall, one cup of sugar, for example).
to know most colors.
to understand and recognize similarities and differences (for instance, in comparing letters or objects).
to realize that stories have a beginning, a middle, and an end.

If your little one doesn’t know these things but is eager to learn and has social skills, she or he should be able to pick up the academics fairly well. But having a leg up can make a difference in the long run. So give your child plenty of opportunities to cut, paste, write, and draw. Help her hold pencils, markers, and scissors correctly. Read, read, and read some more.

Even going to the grocery store can be a fun learning experience. If you need three containers of milk, let your child help you find the labels that start with the letter M and count three containers. Or ask her or him to help you sort laundry, and talk about similarities and differences between the clothing: Dad’s socks are bigger; Mom’s T-shirts look very much like Dad’s.

It is a good idea to take a tour of the building with your child before kindergarten starts. It will ease anxieties by focusing on all the new and unknown areas where she or he may spend time soon. A tour can answer questions like: Where’s the bathroom? Will she or he have to get permission to go or can she or he simply excuse him/herself? Where’s the cafeteria? What time is lunch? How does one get a tray of food? Is there a line even if she or he brings his or her own lunch? Will the teacher sit at the table with the kids or will other lunchroom monitors be there? Whatever else comes to mind, give your child the chance to hear all the details. At home, let her or him practice opening the lunch box, thermos, milk cartons, and zipper-lock bags. Your kid will be a pro by the time the first day rolls around. And you will be proud as a Spaniard.

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