Kindergarten can be a big step for your child, and it’s okay for them to have a range of emotions. They may be nervous or excited, shy or a social butterfly.
In the past decade, kindergarten classrooms have shifted toward a greater focus on academic skills, says U.Va. researcher Daphna Bassok.
Children’s social skills are critical to their wellbeing. Social behaviors like taking turns, listening to others and reading body language help kids develop friendships and positive relationships. These are essential for a child’s emotional and cognitive development. Kids who lack these skills are more likely to experience difficulties in later life such as relationship problems, job loss or run-ins with the law.
In kindergarten, a child may have trouble expressing themselves verbally and will need to learn more constructive ways to express their feelings (e.g., tugging on a friend’s hair instead of grabbing it). They will also need to learn how to interpret other people’s emotions and understand empathy.
Research suggests that kids have unique trajectories of social skill development. It has been found that girls’ trajectories are different to boys’, suggesting that gender differences should be taken into consideration when identifying children who may have social challenges. These differences can be influenced by a variety of factors, including their home-rearing environment and demographic characteristics.
Children’s social and emotional development is a critical milestone in their learning. It’s how they develop a sense of who they are and what they feel, form close relationships with family and other caregivers, explore their environment and learn new things. Children who do not have strong social and emotional foundation skills often struggle in school and in life.
Emotional development includes noticing emotions in others, sharing feelings with one another and learning how to comfort themselves when upset. It also teaches them how to interact positively with adults and peers.
Teachers who understand the importance of emotional development can create a classroom climate that supports it. They can provide opportunities for students to engage in meaningful interactions with each other, play and work together cooperatively. They can also encourage children to persevere when they are challenged by a task. This is a critical skill that will carry them into their future school and professional life.
Language & Literacy Development
Literacy development includes both receptive and expressive language skills, which are the building blocks for reading and writing. Children learn vocabulary through interactions with their families and teachers, and they develop the foundation of their literacy skills through exposure to written language and experiences with storytelling and reading.
Parents play a critical role in literacy development by providing a language-rich environment and reading aloud to their children. They can also support a child’s learning of literacy skills by helping them with daily tasks, such as making grocery lists or writing cards.
Emergent literacy is the first phase of a child’s developing ability to read and write. It involves behaviors such as pretending to read and being able to identify the first letter of their name, singing the alphabet song and recognizing letters and their sounds. This stage usually lasts until a child starts school. Children in this phase can also begin to understand the connection between written syllables and words, which is called orthographic consistency.
While young children may not be able to grasp sophisticated reasoning or formulate detailed arguments, they can begin to build a critical thinking mindset. Parents can encourage this by asking open-ended questions that require thought and analysis (as opposed to rote memorization), and by helping them develop their own interests and passions.
In kindergarten, it’s especially important to promote creative thinking skills. The earlier students learn how to analyze, compare, innovate and have an open mind, the better they’ll be able to solve problems.
During this developmental stage, it’s also useful to introduce students to concepts like describing, comparing/contrasting and sequencing. A great resource for this is the book Teaching Thinking Skills & Common Core Concepts by Sandra Parks and Howard Black. This student book contains powerful lessons that help students learn key kindergarten skills while improving their observation and description skills. It’s ideal for classroom use with the corresponding teacher’s manual, sold separately.