• Kindergarten Social Readiness

    Adapted from: Out Into the World
    Social Readiness for Kindergartners
    Joan Weinstein, M.S., and Julie Finkel, M.S.
    September 2004

    While there is often much discussion regarding the academic readiness of kindergarten-age children, there should be an equal emphasis on their social and emotional readiness. During the last 30 years, research has indicated that the ability to establish and maintain social relationships in early childhood directly influence show socially competent a child will be in later years. It is with this thought in mind that parents should help their children develop social skills while they are preschoolers. Children who enter kindergarten with social competence will adjust better to their new environment. This, in turn, will have a positive impact on their academic development. Here are ideas for parents to help smooth their child’s transition into kindergarten:

    • Arrange frequent playdates for your child but keep them relatively short. It is better to have him beg for more, than for the playdate to end with crying or fighting. Too often parents arrange playdates that go on for hours and then they wonder why they didn't go well. Young children (ages 3-5) need gradual amounts of time to play with others, which can be increased as they develop social competency.

    • Before school starts, use your incoming class list. Arrange for a playdate that is activity-based (bowling, picnic, playground, library) so that it eases the tension for two children who don't know each other. This way the conversation becomes a natural result of being together rather than an effort.

    • Enroll your child in activities that encourage peer interaction( day camp, group-oriented classes such as cooking, gymnastics, or art).

    • Delay getting your child involved in team sports such as soccer and baseball until he/she shows an interest — then make sure the focus is on having fun. Too often parents think that 4- and 5-year-olds will benefit from being on a team. While many programs do a great job with young children, some emphasize performance and winning, which can be stressful for children who aren't ready for it.

    • Don’t overschedule your child — less is better. Limit the amount of television that is watched and engage your child in activities such as reading, cooking, art projects, being a special helper, or playing with toys. Your interaction with your child will lay the foundation for socialization.

    • If your child struggles socially, a social skills group might help him "practice" interacting and have fun at the same time.

    • Ask your local librarian for books about making new friends, going to a new school, etc. There are many to choose from. Reading books about specific subjects related to your child’s life opens the door for wonderful discussions and could help decrease anxieties he/she might have about various issues, including starting kindergarten or meeting new people. Reading, of course, also enhances language development, which in turn helps children relate better to their peer group.

    • After your child starts kindergarten, ask the teacher which childyour child connects with and make a playdate with that child, or arrange one with someone your child talks about. Teachers often see good carryover from playdates to classroom interaction.

    • Frequently engage your child in conversation. Label feelings or pose a question, such as, "How do you feel when your friend takes a toy away from you?” Encourage your child to share his feelings and model the language to use when talking to another child who, for example, isn’t sharing. This will promote empathy and sensitivity towards others and help your child relate to peers more appropriately.

    • Don't force academics on your child. Follow her lead and have fun in the process. Parents often feel pressure to have their preschoolers develop academic skills. Try to resist the temptation to succumb to this pressure, and remember the importance of learning through play!

    • Encourage your child to play board games to promote taking turns as well as good sportsmanship.

    • When your child is playing with a friend (or sibling), try being more of a "coach" than a "referee" by modeling appropriate behavior, promoting social problem-solving strategies or role-playing different scenarios.

    Remember, kindergartners need time to adjust to their new environment. Take it slowly, and enjoy this milestone. Your child will respond to your positive cues and develop better social skills in the process.