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 academicreadiness of kindergarten-age children, there should be an equalemphasis on their social and emotional readiness. During the last 30years, research has indicated that the ability to establish andmaintain social relationships in early childhood directly influenceshow socially competent a child will be in later years. It is with thisthought in mind that parents should help their children develop socialskills while they are preschoolers. Children who enter kindergartenwith social competence will adjust better to their new environment.This, in turn, will have a positive impact on their academicdevelopment. Here are ideas for parents to help smooth their child’stransition into kindergarten:

    · Arrange frequent playdates for your child but keep themrelatively short. It is better to have him beg for more, than for theplaydate to end with crying or fighting. Too often parents arrangeplaydates that go on for hours and then they wonder why they didn't gowell. Young children (ages 3-5) need gradual amounts of time to playwith 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 beingtogether 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 soccerand baseball until he/she shows an interest — then make sure the focusis on having fun. Too often parents think that 4- and 5-year-olds willbenefit from being on a team. While many programs do a great job withyoung children, some emphasize performance and winning, which can bestressful for children who aren't ready for it.

    · Don’t overschedule your child — less is better. Limit the amountof television that is watched and engage your child in activities suchas reading, cooking, art projects, being a special helper, or playingwith toys. Your interaction with your child will lay the foundation forsocialization.

    · 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. Readingbooks about specific subjects related to your child’s life opens thedoor for wonderful discussions and could help decrease anxieties he/shemight have about various issues, including starting kindergarten ormeeting new people. Reading, of course, also enhances languagedevelopment, which in turn helps children relate better to their peergroup.

    · After your child starts kindergarten, ask the teacher which childyour child connects with and make a playdate with that child, orarrange one with someone your child talks about. Teachers often seegood carryover from playdates to classroom interaction.

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

    · Don't force academics on your child. Follow her lead and have funin the process. Parents often feel pressure to have their preschoolersdevelop 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 beingmore of a "coach" than a "referee" by modeling appropriate behavior,promoting social problem-solving strategies or role-playing differentscenarios.

    Remember, kindergartners need time to adjust to their newenvironment. Take it slowly, and enjoy this milestone. Your child willrespond to your positive cues and develop better social skills in theprocess.