How does a parent know if her child is ready for kindergarten? Pressure to excel academically at a very young age is cyclical as the culture flows from one extreme to another in educational philosophy. Currently, we are in a high pressure mode and with ever expanding technology, the sales market for learning toys and software creates more pressure for achievement. What does kindergarten readiness really mean and what are the learning objectives involved?

A school readiness survey suggests several areas that ensure a child is ready for school.

Color naming

Can your child name the basic colors red, pink, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple? Teaching colors is as easy as naming the colors of everyday objects. Clean up time can be made into a game by picking up everything that is blue, then everything that is red. Children enjoy coloring with a parent providing the opportunity to talk about the names of the colors.

Number concepts

Number concepts include more than, less than, bigger, smaller, half and quarter, as well as counting. Cutting apples and sandwiches into halves and quarters is a convenient way to teach fractions. As for counting, the child needs to learn “how many.” Counting out raisins, one, two, three, four, five, is good practice, as is setting the table with one, two, three, four, forks. By the time a child is six, he will be counting to 30 and above. Old family board games such as Sorry™ can be played with young children, using only one marker and the numerals they already know. A child should be familiar with calendars and clocks, but will not master these concepts until later.

Discrimination of form

Does your child recognize differences in objects? Everyday toys can be used to discuss same and different. Children enjoy sorting coins into piles by type. Pattern blocks are wonderful tools as they feel good to the touch and come in a variety of shapes and colors. A simple game is to make a line of orange squares with one blue diamond. The child chooses the one that is different. A more complicated game is to create a design for the child to copy. Of course it is more fun if the child then creates a design for the parent to copy. Puzzles are another tool for teaching form discrimination. Practice in discrimination makes it easier to remember letters, once a child begins to read.

Symbol matching

In addition to the activities listed above, your child can learn to match socks, buttons, beads, or other objects. Some children will enjoy collecting coins, cards, flags, or other items that interest him. Playing card games such as Go Fish teaches matching as well.

Speaking vocabulary

A child needs to be able to name everyday items in order to have a successful conversation. One of the most important aspects of conversation with a child is patience. It takes a bit of time for recall and thought about what he is trying to say. Using real words in frequent conversations will encourage the child to use the words himself. A variety of experiences will provide a larger vocabulary as will a wide variety of storybooks.

Listening vocabulary

Listening to books also increases a child’s listening vocabulary, that is, the words he understands when he hears them. When reading a book, ask what is this? Can you think of two words that might be used for this person, such as woman and mother? Many children love to learn big names for simple ones they already know, such as pachyderm for elephant. This is one of the charms of books like the Babar stories. Children also enjoy hearing made up stories. Telling a bedtime story of the child’s daytime activities provides a review of new words, as well as provides an exciting and enjoyable time.

General knowledge

Visiting many interesting places, within the family’s means, will give the child a knowledge base which works as a framework for adding additional knowledge. For a preschooler, going to the market or to the post office is a great adventure. The outing is enriched by discussing everything you see, and why you stand in line, and whatever else the child observes. Watching movies and reading books will also add to the child’s knowledge.

These basic concepts, all easily taught at home in an informal, through-the-day approach are all that is expected academically of a child before he begins kindergarten. It might help to ask what you, as a parent, expect of your child. Training in obedience, manners, and kindness are necessary objectives, as well as teaching the love of God.

In spite of the current pressure for children to excel academically at a very early age, preschool is pretty much the same as it has always been.