You may already know my youngest daughter starts kindergarten this fall and how I’m a bag full of mixed emotions. This week our school, like many elementary schools across the province, held a kindergarten orientation for both the kids and the parents.
Most after school activities rotate around her older siblings (5 and 8-years old) so she was thrilled that this night was all about her; it was all she talked about the night before at bedtime, during the day, even during dinner time.
We arrived very early, almost the first ones there, due to my daughter’s uncharacteristically fast walking this evening. After an initial welcoming from the principal, the kindergarten teacher and the parent council representative, the kids (and parents) were divided into groups among four activity stations. Each station represented different aspects in the kindergarten room.
Reading Corner - There was a bookshelf containing a variety of different books, plus chairs and a carpet. The kids grabbed some book while the teacher explained how reading and language skills are dealt with in the classroom. She offered parents some tips on encouraging and building the child’s love and understanding of books too. My oldest daughter attended with us and relished in reading books to her sister.
Play dough – Next the group rotated to the play dough corner. Not surprisingly play dough activities seem to be the most popular in the classroom, according to the teacher. She talked about how beyond just playing with it, kids develop language and social skills, fine motor and creativity. Play dough is also great at exploring math concepts like more and less, big and little, numbering and so on. And here you thought it was just for grinding into the carpet. Arts and Crafts – This was my daughter’s favourite table, arts and crafts. The teacher talked about how using crayons and cutting help build fine motor skills important for writing. The arts and crafts area is use to explore a child’s creativity in pictures and stories. Even my 8-year-old loved this table and both girls didn’t want to leave for the next activity. Letters – The last activity area the kids explored was the letters section. Here the kids matched foam letters to a letter mat and played with letters on a magnet board. The teacher explained how to help kids at home with letter recognition with similar activities or getting them to point out letters they know in a story or on a cereal box, to talk about the letters used in their name and the names of their friends and families. Talking about the shape and sound of letters also helps in reading skills, word formation and spelling. She also said if parents are teaching kids to write their name at home, one of the first words kids learn to write, they should be taught that only the first letter in their name is upper case and all the other letters are lower case. Most kids are taught to write their whole name in upper case as these are easier letters to write, but it becomes a difficult habit to break in school. I know first hand about this with my son; it took us a long time to get him to write his name upper/lower. My youngest loved going to her kindergarten night with her big sister though I did have to remind my 8-year-old that the activities were meant for the kindergarten kids. Like a great older sister she wanted to help her younger sister roll the play dough flat or cut out shapes but that sort of defeats the purpose of learning on her own. It was hard for my oldest to stand back and observe, just like me. She’ll be a great mom one day. The last part of the evening was a bag of goodies for each kindergarten student. The bag contained information on local library programs and pre-screening tests, plus it included a whole bunch of supplies: crayons, paper, scissors, letters, even play dough with a play dough recipe. My daughter was so excited about her bag, she carried it all the way home on her own. And the next day she loaded her backpack and walked around the house pretending to go to school. The summer may go very slow for my eager daughter but it will zip by for me.