Kindergarten is a big milestone for both children and their parents. It’s comforting to know your child has the social, cognitive and physical skills in place to start on the right foot. These skills develop in phases throughout the years leading up to kindergarten with the help of early childhood education.
The goal of many kindergarten readiness programs is to make sure children are familiar with the concepts and situations they’ll encounter in school. Melody Stewart, Director of Curriculum and Professional Development at AppleTree & Gilden Woods Early Care and Preschool, lists examples such as cleaning up after activities, lining up with classmates, participating in circle time, identifying their own feelings and those of others, and navigating friendships.
At AppleTree & Gilden Woods Early Care and Preschool, with four locations in metro Detroit, children build upon those concepts for the first few years of their lives. The school has 23 centers across Michigan and is one of 11 brands in the Learning Care Group community. AppleTree & Gilden Woods, with its 25 years of expertise, serves children ages 6 weeks to 12 years with infant, toddler, preschool and school-age programming, including before-and-after school care and summer camp.
Helping your child with kindergarten readiness
Although there isn’t a set age at which the kindergarten readiness process should begin, Stewart feels it really begins at birth.
“Children are born ready to learn. They are naturally curious beings and are motivated to make sense of the world around them,” she explains. “Their relationships and experiences in their early years really influence how their brain grows. And they learn best through their everyday experiences with the people they love and trust and when that learning is fun and engaging.”
Although parents can do a lot to help their child prepare for kindergarten, there are added benefits that come from spending time in an early learning child care setting.
At AppleTree & Gilden Woods, the question “Will this benefit children in a positive way?” guides all decisions.
“We’re emphasizing the development of the whole child and supporting all areas of their growth and development through curriculum that’s based in current research and sound educational theories,” says Stewart. That includes language, literacy, social, emotional, physical and cognitive development.
Through a wide range of hands-on, interactive materials that help children experiment, explore and make decisions, kindergarten readiness starts in AppleTree & Gilden Woods’ infant classrooms.
Here, educators focus on building secure and trusting relationships with the babies. As the children get into the toddler program, they are taught self-help skills and how to acknowledge their own feelings and those of others around them. And, as they reach the preschool program, they learn how to build, foster and maintain friendships.
“We have a really important job in those five years to prepare them and set them up for kindergarten readiness,” says Stewart.
What parents can do at home
If your child isn’t yet enrolled in a kindergarten preparatory program, Stewart recommends having an open conversation with your child’s pediatrician to find out where they are developmentally to help guide at-home activities.
She suggests parents try the following:
- Spend meaningful time together, both physically and mentally.
- Help your child develop independence like being able to dress themselves and holding eating utensils.
- Create rules and ask your child to follow them (with some reminders).
- Lay a foundation of language and literacy through talking, reading and singing to your child.
- Teach them about different emotions and then acknowledge those feelings when your child experiences them.
- Include them in social groups with children their own age.
- Support your child’s physical development, both small and gross motor skills, by visiting the playground and putting puzzles together, for example.
What parents should look for in quality care and education
When looking for the right early child care kindergarten prep program for your child, Stewart suggests keeping these criteria in mind:
- A developmentally appropriate environment that sets children up for success
- Provides a variety of materials that support children’s growth and development
- Has opportunities for independent play and allows educators to guide children’s interactions and partner in their play to extend their use of imagination, self-concepts and problem-solving skills
- Promotes healthy habits and safety
- High-quality curriculum and educational programming
- Develops cognitive, social-emotional, physical, and literacy skills with a strong foundation for children’s educational journey to kindergarten readiness
- Enrichment programs
- Provides additional, well-rounded experiences as children continue to grow, learn, and thrive
- Has dedicated and compassionate educators who have the experience, expertise, and education necessary to support the age group they will be working with
- Partners with families, since the best educational team is the family and the educator
- Respects diversity, differences, gender equality and inclusion of children with disabilities
Learn about AppleTree & Gilden Woods Early Care and Preschool in Troy, New Hudson, Howell and Commerce Township by visiting gildenwoods.com.