How should children be prepared for kindergarten?

Among children entering kindergarten, educators have noted a wide range of skills and abilities. Much of the disparity between children is due to developmental differences, the varying rates at which individuals mature. Some children, however, have not had the variety of life experiences that have prepared other children so well for today’s kindergartens.

In their recent survey, Kimberly Harris and Shelly Knudsen Lindauer sought to determine what parents and teachers believe about kindergarten preparation. Their findings reveal some interesting differences in the expectations of the two groups. This study surveyed two-parent families from a wide range of economic, ethnic and religious backgrounds in both urban and rural areas.

Teachers felt strongly that parents could do more to prepare their children for school. Parents agreed that they could do ‘somewhat’ more, but disagreed about the areas in which children need to be prepared. Mothers reported that they were actively involving in preparing their children for school more often than did fathers.

When asked what parents could do to better prepare their children, teachers most frequently mentioned the areas of receptive language, cognitive-attention/problem-solving and small muscle coordination. Mothers and fathers tended to believe they should help their children with pre-reading, math and social skills.

According to Harris and Lindauer, many parents appear to have little understanding of child development and of what is expected of children in kindergarten. Parents stress academic skills much more than teachers and seem to believe simply that “early academic skills are essential to future success.”

For the most part, varying responses among parents were due apparently to differences in socioeconomic circumstances; parents in lower socioeconomic groups were much less likely to stress emotional or language development as necessary for school success. Behavior and self-help skills were mentioned most often by this group.

Harris and Lindauer suggest that clarifying goals for parents is essential and that the more continuity there is between school and home goals, the more likely it is that a child will experience success in kindergarten.

“Parent and Teacher Priorities For Kindergarten Preparation” Child Study Journal Volume 18 Number 2 pp. 61.

Published in ERN January/February 1989 Volume 2 Number 1

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