Ready to Learn: Getting Your Child Ready for Kindergarten

Ready for School - getting your child ready for kindergarten

Today is my final post for this year’s Get Ready for Kindergarten Through Play series, and I’m talking about simple things you can do to send your child off to kindergarten ready to learn! Getting your child ready for kindergarten can feel daunting (speaking from experience), but a little preparation really does go a long way! You can find all of the posts for this series – for both last year and this year, by clicking on the link above or the button below.

Get to Know the School

I never went to kindergarten (I started school for the first time halfway through second grade), so when I sent my first child off to kindergarten I wasn’t sure what to expect. One thing I did right was to make sure that she knew where the bathroom was and the rules for going to the bathroom. This is an easy way to prevent anxiety and embarrassment for kindergartners! Knowing where to find the principal’s office, nurse’s office, and library is also very helpful! Bonus activities include learning about your school’s mascot, traditions, and (if possible) looking up photos of events from previous years.

Write a Letter to Your Teacher

I saw this idea all over the internet last year, and I love it! Have your child write a get-to-know me letter to their teacher, and either deliver it on the first day or at an orientation event. If you have a snail mail address for the teacher, that also works!

Meet Classmates

My daughter’s school has three play dates for incoming kindergartners this year, and I have been grateful for the opportunity for her to meet some of her classmates – and for me to get to know some of the parents! Even one familiar face on the first day can go a long ways towards making your child feel more comfortable.

Go Over the Schedule

Knowing what to expect when has eased a lot of school anxiety for my kids. Your child might even enjoy following a mock school schedule for a day – mine play school all the time!

Schedule Down Time After School

While this won’t happen until school starts, I think making sure children have down time after school is an important way to ease the transition. Down time gives kids a chance to process their day, talk to you, and simply play!

What are you doing to prepare your child for the new school year?

Get Ready for K Through Play button

This is the final post for this year’s Get Ready for Kindergarten Through Play series! Here are some great ideas from my co-hosts for this series, and clicking on the button above will take you to the links from my blog for both last year and this year!

Kindergarten Readiness: Fine Motor Skills

Help your child get ready for kindergarten by developing fine motor skills

Developing fine motor skills is a big part of getting your child ready for kindergarten, where they will be expected to spend the year learning to print neatly! Fortunately, there are plenty of fun ways to help your child develop the kindergarten readiness fine motor skills they need to excel! Today I am sharing some fine motor skill building activities my children enjoy!

Many of the links in this post are to other posts from this blog, but some are product links from Amazon. In most browsers, you can hover your mouse over a link and a little window will pop up telling you where the link is leading to before you click over. The Amazon links are affiliate links, and if you make a purchase (of the product or something else) using these links I may earn a small commission. Thank you for supporting this site!

Sensory Play

Playing with malleable materials like play dough gives your child the strength they need to develop their fine motor skills! I shared some of my favorite play dough tools here, but kitchen utensils work beautifully! Stamping is a fun way to get kids looking at play dough in a new way ! My kids also enjoy making accessories for their small toys, setting up play dough bakeries, and combining play dough with unusual materials such as rocks, googley eyes, and even kleenex! We repurposed a water table into a sensory table, and my kids really enjoy exploring different materials this way!

Get Crafty

Sewing is a great fine motor activity for kids, and my four-year-old adores our rainbow loom! You can start kids off sewing on paper or felt – both are very child-friendly materials, and can be sewn using a blunt tip embroidery needle (always supervise kids with needles, whether they have sharp or blunt ends!) The popular rainbow looms are also great at building fine motor skills! I bought a few imitation looms before deciding that this is one case where paying for the brand name version is worth the money! My kids find the mini looms easier to work with than the full-size version.

Any craft activity builds fine motor skills – painting, drawing, arranging leaves in patterns, cutting, and gluing – so feel free to gravitate towards the activities that you and your child enjoy best!

Toys, Games, and Puzzles

Long-time readers of this blog know that I adore LEGO sets! Kindergarten-aged children are often getting old for DUPLO sets but too young for traditional LEGO sets, so I was thrilled to find out that LEGO released a LEGO Juniors line that is perfect for this in-between stage! I also recommend pattern blocks (which we often use with play dough and as a sensory activity) and Magna-Tiles. We aren’t a big game family, but my kids really enjoy Spot It Junior and Rush Hour Junior. They also enjoy playing with Travel Scrabble (only my eight-year-old plays the game properly, but it’s fun fine motor practice and letter recognition for younger kids). With all of these toys and games, kids are learning while they play – beyond simply developing fine motor skills.

Slow Down

Kids focus best on fine motor skills when they are not under pressure! My kids really enjoy listening to a book on tape while they craft, or simply sitting around the table crafting, playing a game, or playing with play dough while we chat. Sometimes we describe what we are working on, sometimes we explore whimsical what-ifs, and sometimes my kids talk to me about things that have been on their minds. It makes for wonderful mellow family time, and is great for parent-child bonding!

What fine motor skills developing activities have your kids enjoyed?

Get Ready for K Through Play button

This post is the fifth in this year’s Get Ready for Kindergarten Through Play series! Here are some great ideas from my co-hosts for this series, and clicking on the button above will take you to the links from my blog for both last year and this year!

Books Your Kindergartner Will Love!

books your kindergartner will love

Today is week four in this year’s Get Ready for Kindergarten Through Play series, and we’re talking about literacy! I believe that the best way to build kindergarten literacy skills is to find books your kindergartner will love! To get you started, I’m sharing some of our favorites! All links are Amazon affiliate links. If you buy anything through them, I may receive a small commission at no cost to you. Thank you for supporting this blog!

Picture Books My Kindergartners Love

  • When Dinosaurs Came With Everything by Elise Broach is a delightful story exploring a whimsical what-if. What if, instead of getting a sticker at the doctor’s, you got a full-grown dinosaur? How about a dinosaur with those donuts? David Small’s illustrations make this book even more delightful.
  • My son read How Rocket Learned to Read and Rocket Writes a Story nearly every day of his kindergarten year – and, remarkably, I never got tired of these sweet stories that are both written and illustrated by Tad Hills. As a bonus, the books are inspired by the author’s real live dog, also named Rocket.
  • Barney Saltzberg’s Beautiful Oops is a fun read that shares an important message about making mistakes.
  • We adore all of Mo Willems’ Elephant and Piggie books. We Are in a Book! is our favorite!
  • John Himmelman has written a very fun series about various farm animals coming to the rescue – sometimes helpfully and sometimes not so much. It turns out that, in Himmelman’s world, chickens are more helpful than some of the other animals, even if they do bring a little chaos along in Chickens to the Rescue.

picture books and chapter books your kindergartner will love

Chapter Books My Kindergartners Love

  • The Faraway Tree Stories is out of print, but this delightful series of stories by Enid Blyton is well finding an old copy of!
  • We usually listen to James Herriot’s Treasury for Children as an audiobook, but there is also a lovely illustrated hardcover copy.
  • Beverly Cleary got my first child into chapter books. Emma loved the Ramona series, but I was always partial to Socks, and children will also enjoy her adventurous Ralph the Mouse series.
  • I adored the Mrs. Piggle Wiggle stories as a child, and so do my kids! All of the books are fun, but Hello, Mrs. Piggle Wiggle is our favorite.
  • Many people start Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House series with the first of the Laura books, but Farmer Boy is a delightful read that appeals to both girls and boys. I recommend starting with it, and then moving on to the Laura and Mary books.

What books have your kindergartners loved?

Get Ready for K Through Play button

This post is the fourth in this year’s Get Ready for Kindergarten Through Play series! Here are some great ideas from my co-hosts for this series, and clicking on the button above will take you to the links from my blog for both last year and this year!

Fun Christmas Crafts!

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Merry Christmas! I thought I would highlight my favorites of some of the fun Christmas crafts my kids brought home this year! They were all made by Johnny (6 years old) or Lily (4 years old). The nativity scene above is one Lily made with her very wonderful Sunday School teachers! Apparently she was offered materials to make wise men, shepherds, and sheep, but true to her minimalist self she opted for simplicity with Mary, Joseph, and Baby Jesus. The result is a very sweet scene!

All of the other crafts were made by Johnny and Lily during his kindergarten Christmas party! Lily was lucky to be the only four-year-old there, and his teacher let her make all of the crafts with the kindergarteners. Needless to say, she was thrilled! I really appreciated his teacher inviting me to bring Lily and Anna so I could come in the first place, and for then letting Lily participate in the entire party!

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I love this simple star craft! The kids cut a spiral (just try to cut a set distance along the previous cut in a circle, glued the star on, and decorated it! Lily’s is the decorated star – she decided she didn’t have to be quite so minimalist with this craft! Then they threaded the loop through the hole (with help) and their ornament was ready to hang!

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I had never seen this Rudolph craft before – it’s adorable! Glue googley eyes and a pom pom on for the face, and then thread a bell and a loop of ribbon for hanging on a pipe cleaner.

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Twist the ribbon and bell in place in the center of the pipe cleaner, and then thread both ends back through, create loops for horns/ears, stick the ends back in, and twist in place. This is a high-parent-involvement craft, but very cute!

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These cheese stick snowmen were super easy for even Lily to make. Glue the (pre-cut) foam pieces on, and add a face with a Sharpie!

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Lily and Johnny both focused a lot on making their candy cane ornaments. I didn’t find Johnny’s when I was taking photos, but he did a very careful red-white-red-white pattern. Lily was less conventional, but equally pretty:

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Johnny was also able to decorate a gingerbread house with his class on another day using the very effective “ice graham crackers onto a milk carton” method. His teacher sent home extra icing for Emma and Lily, and Johnny actually pulled candy off of his house so that they would have more candy to decorate their own – which they ate immediately after making (while I was putting Anna down for a nap) – and that I therefore have no pictures of.

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We didn’t do much crafting beyond our model magic ornaments at home, so I’m glad that my middle kids at least got to make some fun crafts with help from other wonderful adults in their lives!

Emma and Johnny did come home from school and use the left over model magic to make some crafts of their own, so they weren’t left out of our in-house Christmas crafting! They were left with only white and red, and they rose to the challenge! Emma made this neat star-inspired ornament:

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Emma also made a candy cane which got broken, and a red and white ball that is off in her treasure collection. Johnny used all of his clay to make a handprint ornament – I like  the way he mixed the red and white together!

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What cute crafts did your kids make this Christmas?

High Quality Educational Toys: Spielgaben

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Do you like educational toys and learning manipulatives for kids? If so, be prepared to fall in love with Spielgaben! I consider myself pretty well versed on educational toys, but I hadn’t heard of this one until I started seeing it on a few favorite blogs – and their instagram accounts! I was intrigued by this all wood and wool set of early childhood learning manipulatives developed by Friedrich Froebel, inventor of kindergarten – and I jumped at the chance to review a set with my kids!

Comparison_V01_V02

The Spielgaben set comes with thirteen different components. Version 02 is the style that will be sold in the US; we were sent Version 01. The actual components are identical in both versions. The set also comes with learning resources to create a complete curriculum – complete with a lifetime update on future upcoming learning resources!

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I looked over the learning resources, and they are an excellent teaching resource, as well as providing creative inspiration. The toys themselves are equally inspirational. Here, four-year-old Lily and five-year-old Johnny played very differently with the colored sticks and rings. Lily used them on a 3D plane and spent a lot of time exploring their movement and the sounds they made; Johnny created pictures:

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The colors combined with the solid wood make for incredibly rewarding exploratory play – they are weighted just right, and the colors are beautifully vibrant:

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Spielgaben 7 is made up of seven differently-shaped tablets. They are quite small, and can be used to create complex patterns and mosaics as well as to build towers and rocket ships:

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Spielgaben 10 (the small discs below) is designed to introduce kids to the idea of a geometric point. They are wonderful for detailed mosaics, as counters, and even as play food (coconut shell not included):

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Anna quickly adopted the wool balls. There are 12 – one of each color with a string and one without. They are soft, and excellent for exploring movement:

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Anna also thinks they make quite a fashion statement! My other kids also really like these, and there are some great ideas of ways to incorporate them into structured explorations in the user guides that I want to explore.

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I have always felt strongly that early childhood was the time to introduce geometry, and Spielgaben does this better than any other educational tool I have seen. I love the way the Spielgaben 2 set allows kids to explore planes and points of intersection in a 3D geometric solid.

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The geometric solids can also be suspended – from a crossbeam (included) or your own hand:

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These blocks are also excellent for exploring 3D geometric solids:

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I have emphasized this set’s use in early childhood education, but honestly I could see this being useful clear through high school – both as a learning tool and as an artistic toy. Spielgaben is offering a one-time special deal for their US launch go here for your chance to purchase Spielgaben at a great price!

What part of this set do you think your kids would gravitate towards first? What part would you want to explore first?

We were sent a Spielgaben set to review. All opinions are my own.