Beat the summer brain drain: 5 tips to get your first grader ready for school

Preparing for the first day of school is an exciting and scary time for both parents and children – especially young ones who are entering school for the first time. This summer, parents of Pre-K and kindergarten students can practice fun and effective activities in New York City to help provide children with a solid foundation for early learning.

Kevin Colleary, an executive with McGraw-Hill Education’s PreK-12 Literacy & Humanities Center, is an expert in early childhood education and on ways to incorporate educational elements in fun, everyday activities.

Kevin’s top 5  tips include:

1.       Read to Your Child Often to Help Build Their Vocabulary – Although every child learns at their own pace, many early childhood educators suggest that kids know 3,000-5,000 words in conversation before they enter kindergarten. Parents can help develop their child’s vocabulary by reading to them frequently. Make an afternoon of errands fun by adding a stop at one of the 89 New York Public Library locations to expose kids to a wide range of reading material in multiple forms, including hardcover books, paperback books, magazines and newspapers. With 12 branches in Staten Island, your local library is a fun, free place to encourage reading and develop your child’s vocabulary.

2.       Make Sure Your Child Can Communicate His or Her Full Name (and Yours!) – Early childhood educators will want their students to be able to communicate very basic needs to them. For developmental and safety purposes, Pre-K and certainly kindergarten students should know their full names, and also should be able to state the full names of their parents or caretakers. Additionally, to ensure your child’s safety, be sure to teach them his or her address and phone number.

3.       Be a “Chatty Caretaker”– Ask your child questions that elicit a response which goes beyond “yes” or “no” to encourage your child to expand his or her thinking and develop a creative and descriptive dialogue. It is also helpful to frequently tell your child stories, which can be as simple as talking about your day or as engaging as nursery rhymes. These stories help teach different lessons in a light-hearted manner and develop comprehension and conversation skills.

4.       Teach Your Child Science and Math in a Fun, Healthy Way – Science and math can be challenging subjects. You can make these subjects fun by going for a nature walk through Central Park and observing and investigating your surroundings. Flowers, animals and insects are fun, and they are interesting topics that will help familiarize your child with scientific facts. The Staten Island Zoo is a great place to expose your child to concepts in science. Through this activity, you can also practice math skills by counting trees or rocks throughout the park or asking your child to bring you a certain number of flowers or other objects. The enjoyable, nature-filled atmosphere will make your child excited to learn.

5.       Prepare Your Child for the School Setting – The unknown can be scary, and it is important that your child isn’t intimidated by the new atmosphere of a school and classroom on his or her first day. To help ease fears, show photos of a school building, classroom and teacher, and tell your child that these types of places and people will be part of their life at school every day. Preparing your child will help them better adjust to and enjoy their first few weeks of school.

Kevin P. Colleary is an executive with McGraw-Hill Education’s PreK-12 Literacy & Humanities Center. In his almost 20 years with McGraw-Hill he has been an editor, product manager, national consultant and curriculum director. He is also an author on Macmillan/McGraw-Hill’s elementary social studies program, TimeLinks.

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