As summer approaches, many parents are registering their children in group activities and sports. It’s the time of year for swimming lessons, baseball and soccer games, library reading clubs, craft clubs and day camp activities, to name only a few. Besides providing children with something to do on those long, hot days, it is a great way to help them develop many of the skills they will need for their first year of school.
When it comes to school readiness, social skills are even more important than the ABC’s. Children need to feel comfortable being away for a few hours from their parents or people they know. If your child is in daycare or nursery school, they will have already adjusted to the separation. If not, try enrolling your child in an activity of special interest to them. This will give them the opportunity to discover and explore new things – but without parents – for at least a couple of hours.
While they are exploring all these new and exciting things, they are also learning to get along with others.
Understanding and being understood, listening to directions and following rules, sharing and taking turns, and using appropriate ways of expressing emotion are all essential skills every child must have for a successful kindergarten year.
Summer activity groups are an ideal way for children to perfect these skills and to continue developing in lots of other areas, too.
Sports activities will develop your child’s motor skills and help build self-confidence. Throwing and catching a ball, learning soccer skills, playing baseball and swimming are all fun ways to develop good muscle coordination.
Craft workshops will teach your child techniques like opening and closing things, using materials like water and paints without spilling, holding pencils and crayons correctly, colouring inside the lines, cutting and gluing. These are all targeted toward developing small movement skills.
As their participation in the outside world increases, so will their sense of independence. This is the perfect time to encourage them to do more things for themselves. Going to the bathroom alone and being able to handle the zippers, buttons and snaps on their clothing will not only save them from embarrassing accidents, but it will help them feel more confident about their ability to handle new situations. Even if it means getting up a little earlier, try giving them some choices about what they would like to wear and then allow them to dress themselves.
Teach them about healthy foods and show them how to make their own snack or lunch. Spend time together, engage your child in conversation and share simple, everyday activities – maybe tend a small garden together.
No matter how independent they may feel, your approval means the world to them so don’t forget to tell them what a wonderful job they are doing.
By the end of the summer, you and your child will be ready for a super-successful first year!