Let Kindergarten Day kick off preschoolers’ countdown to K-time

The second your baby is born, you hear, “They don’t stay little for very long. Enjoy every minute.” Sure enough, before you know it, they’ve moved from teething rings and bouncy seats, to peekaboo and patty cake. Then suddenly you—and they—are entertaining the idea of starting s-c-h-o-o-l.

With April 21 being Kindergarten Day, celebrating the birthday of kindergarten founder Friedrich Wilhelm August Froebel, it’s a fun time to officially recognize kindergartners’ wrap-up of a big year. But it’s also an excellent time to start planning how to get preschoolers ready over the next few months for their own kindergarten debut.

Kindergarten, which means “garden for children,” is definitely a place where little ones begin to bloom academically. Not only did the concept have German roots in Europe, according to the National Day Calendar, the first kindergarten that opened in 1856 in the U.S. was a German-language class in Watertown, WI.

To recognize Kindergarten Day, and help mom and dad gather up great materials for preparing preschoolers over the rest of spring and on into summer, School Zone will offer 25% off all kindergarten workbooks and flash cards from April 18-22. These include the new Activity Fun! Write & Reuse Workbook, with a farm theme perfect for spring, and the big Get Ready for Kindergarten Workbook, with 256 pages of activities—everything from smiling snakes to an umbrella-bearing raccoon dancing in the rain. The activities both introduce and reinforce skills, and large-playful pictures energize the lessons.

Everyday life also offers innumerable opportunities to practice basic skills. In “Ready or Not? Stanford Researchers Weigh in on Kindergarten Preparedness,” by Carrie Spector, she quotes Ira Lit, associate professor at Stanford Graduate School of Education and director of the Stanford Elementary Teacher Education Program, who charmingly notes that in terms of literacy and numeracy, “The world is full of things to read and count.”

Of course, going off to school involves more than 1-2-3s and ABCs. In the same article Lit also said that kids “might need practice or guided support beforehand for the kinds of things they’re going to experience.” The article expanded on that by suggesting, “Children who get anxious at a birthday party, for instance, might ease into the classroom environment by participating in a pre-K program over the summer, spending part of each day with a group of 10 or so other kids.”

In 2016, the Edudemic website, which bills itself as “connecting education & technology,” posted “10 Things Kindergartners Should Know Before School.” It suggests that from teachers’ perspective, developing emotional/social skills is just as important. They include a list of “what every child should know before the first day of kindergarten.” On the personal/social side are things such as “how to follow the rules,” “how to ask for help,” and “how to use the bathroom by themselves,” as well “how to tell a story,” “how to count to 10,” and “[how to] recognize basic shapes and name common colors.”

Parents also sometimes wonder about keeping kids at home or preschool another year. Thomas Dee, another Stanford GSE professor, notes that in recent year the trend to wait a year to enroll kids in kindergarten has stepped up. He says, “The percentage of six-year-olds in U.S. kindergartens used to be practically zero,” adding that “It’s grown to roughly 20 percent.” He attributes much of the increase to parents’ desire to give their children an academic advantage.

Dee says there is no strong evidence that in the long run, waiting boosts performance, but some research does suggest that postponing “dramatically reduced children’s levels of inattention and hyperactivity.”

For more about the idea of academic “redshirting” (coined in similarity to the practice of keeping college athletes out of competition for a year to develop their skills and prolong their eligibility), see Diane Whitmore Schazenbach’s and Stephanie Howard Larson’s report last year titled Is Your Child Ready for Kindergarten? It was originally published in the summer issue of Education Next and then posted to the Brookings Institute website.

Besides thinking about the current and next crop of kindergartners, National Day Calendar also suggests that “Saying thank you to a kindergarten teacher in your area is a great way to celebrate National Kindergarten Day.” They further urge sharing your own kindergarten memories on social media using #NationalKindergartenDay.”

All in all, it’s a great time to reminisce, celebrate, share, and prepare!