Wondering how to help your child get ready before the first day of kindergarten this fall? The American Academy of Pediatrics has tips to help parents ease the transition from virtual life to in-person learning.
Because of the changes schools had to make to keep everyone safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, children starting school in-person for the first time this fall may need a boost.
Many children have attended only virtual school, and children may have emotional, social or academic struggles, according to Sara Bode, M.D., FAAP, a pediatrician and expert in school health.
“They just haven’t had an opportunity to be out in a different environment,” said Dr. Bode. “So all of that learning about how to conduct themselves with their behavior and their emotions in a school setting away from their parents is going to be all new skills they’ll have to learn this year.”
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, only about 40% of 3- to 5-year-olds in the U.S. were prepared to start school, according to a national survey.
Dr. Bode said parents can talk with their pediatrician about school readiness milestones. For example, most 3- to 5-year-olds can:
- recognize letters of the alphabet and know how to rhyme;
- follow instructions and focus on activities for short periods of time and
- use fine motor skills, such as by tracing an outline with a pencil or crayon.
Being healthy and having academic, social and emotional skills going into kindergarten sets the tone for the rest of a child’s time in school and helps them succeed later, Dr. Bode said.
This summer, parents can help kids prepare for in-person learning. Dr. Bode offered the following suggestions:
- Identify summer programs to help your child learn the flow of a school day.
- Set up a routine that your child can get used to, such as structured learning time after breakfast.
- Schedule time for free play to help your child gain social and emotional skills.
- Set aside time for reading with your child to help expand vocabulary.
Parents can find great summer programs for kids at their public library and organizations like YMCA and Boys and Girls Club, Dr. Bode said.
Your pediatrician can help find resources for children and families in need of more support.