Kindergarten is a time to develop social, emotional, language and thinking (cognitive) skills. It’s a big step for young children, and parents play an important role in helping kids succeed.
Kindergartners learn their letters and basic math concepts such as addition. Help them recognize and count numbers up to 30 and look for high-frequency words such as in, and, or.
Social and Emotional Development
For children to learn, they need to be able to interact with others and express their emotions in socially appropriate ways. If they are unable to use words and instead hit, kick, scream or throw things, they are less likely to have their needs met, whether with teachers or classmates.
Kindergarten is a time for children to start interacting regularly with other adults in a structured environment. For many children, this is their first experience spending a significant amount of time away from home.
In kindergarten, teachers help children build trusting relationships with peers and adults. They also teach and model appropriate social behaviors, such as taking turns, serving each other and respecting each other’s personal space. Some of these behaviors are taught at all levels, while other behaviors are introduced at the infant-toddler, Young Toddler and Older Toddler Standards and continue to develop through preschool and kindergarten. These skills are essential for school success and set the foundation for lifelong learning.
Language and Literacy Development
The development of language and literacy skills is a critical part of the kindergarten experience. While children develop emergent literacy skills — recognizing, writing and sounding out letters and words — at a varying pace depending on home environment and preschool instruction, the development of those skills is often highly predictive of future reading proficiency.
During the kindergarten year, children begin to use their knowledge of letter and word recognition to write their name and other common words and symbols. They also learn about sentence structure and punctuation, including the use of periods, question marks, and exclamation points.
To foster this growth, families should continue nightly shared reading and regular visits to the library. Research has shown that these practices help children view literacy experiences as enjoyable and motivating. This helps to ensure that reading will become an independent skill rather than a struggle. This will ultimately support their academic success in school and life.
At this age, children are able to use their larger muscles, such as those in their legs and arms, with greater control. They can also use the small muscles in their fingers and hands for activities such as drawing, painting and playing with clay. This helps them to create, sculpt and solve problems. It also enables them to do puzzles, draw circles, crosses and squares and use scissors with more accuracy.
Taking physical activity breaks throughout the day helps kids build healthy bones and muscles, focus better, feel less stress and sleep well. It can also help them to learn new things at a faster pace and to develop good friendships with their peers.
Supporting children and youth’s physical development is an important job for any educator or family member. Having a clear understanding of the typical developmental milestones for the ages your program serves, creating flexible physical development plans and providing plenty of indoor and outdoor play areas are essential steps to help kids reach their full potential.
Thinking (Cognitive) Development
The preschool years are a time of cognitive development when children begin to think logically in specific contexts and domains. They start to show centration of thought, where they focus their attention on one aspect of a situation or object, and they develop memory abilities. They also start to understand and follow multiple-step directions.
Russian researcher Lev Vygotsky believed that children’s cognition advanced through social interaction and problem solving with a More Knowledgeable Other (MKO). He called these interactions scaffolding. Scaffolding involved giving a child challenges that were just beyond their present level of skill, but not so challenging that they would be frustrated and give up. These challenges provided a “zone of proximal development” in which the child could progress with support from the MKO without becoming overwhelmed and having their frustration level rise.
Friedrich Wilhelm August Frobel, the founder of kindergarten, believed that children should be free to express their creative and productive natures. He called the classroom a garden and used toys that allowed children to sculpt clay, nurture plants or play with paper, string and other materials to stimulate creativity and ingenuity.