Skills Needed for Kindergarten (and how boys develop differently than girls)
Boys from infancy need space to grow. Boys love to climb, dive off tables, move a lot, take things apart and try to put them back together. These are some of boys’ temperamental traits. However, many times boys are described with adjectives such as: bad, destructive disruptive, trouble maker, aggressive, un-cooperative etc. Are we destroying our boys during their infant/ toddler years? Many adults like to say boys are slower than girls. Some characteristics are natural with boys and they should be given the opportunity to develop. Just imagine if each time you attempt to climb on a table an adult is there saying “No don’t do that”. Would you want to try climbing again? Many of us sever a boy’s ability to feel a sense of accomplishment during their infant /toddler years. What you need to do is make the space safe for him to climb on the table and when he gets on the table you should celebrate by clapping your hands and say “Yeah you did it!. You will see the biggest smile and observe how quickly he will do it again. His self esteem is taking root because of your approval. Try not to use the word “NO” with your boy. “NO” gives a sense of “I should not try anything because I will hear the word NO”. When you are caring for boys you must give then space to grow. You should also help them through the different developmental stages when they tell you that they are ready. For example : if you are drinking from a cup and your five month old son wants to have some give him from a cup. Don’t say you are too young (let me give you your bottle). Infants and toddlers learn through repetition plus learning new skills takes practice. You can introduce the adult cup to your son at five months. He will get enough practice so by the time he is eight or nine months he will be able to drink from a cup. He should also have his sippy cup and a cup with a straw. Remember that your son’s brain is wired for learning; however you need to help him connect the wires.
Boys love action oriented activities. Many childcare programs tend to have boys sitting too long when their temperament does not allow for that. Boys often stop focusing and the caregiver may become frustrated. Boy(s) may be removed from the circle and placed in the time out chair. His peers are looking; he is internalizing that negative feeling. Plus whatever comment the caregiver added. It may sound like this, “Johnny I am tired of you disrupting the class. This is every day. I am going to tell your mother that you were not a good boy today.” (This is told to him in the morning, this child has the rest of the day to feel that he is not good). These words may be repeated so many times that these boys begin to internalize it (and believe they are bad). The caregiver did not solve the problem because she /he put him in a time out. Now his brain is not being stimulated in a positive way.
It is very important for caregivers to be trained in child development. During these critical years many of our boys are not given the social and emotional readiness that are needed for school and noted below:
1. Skill: Understand the difference between right and wrong and recognize and respect authority figures. Why It’s Important: When your child gets to kindergarten she/hey will be in a bigger class plus the will not be able to get individual attention. Your child should be able to self regulate.
2. Communication: Your son should be able to communicate his needs and feelings verbally in a socially appropriate manner and understand/show empathy for his peers. Why It’s Important: Kindergarten is where children begin to practice their ability to make friends, show empathy, work in a group and socially interact with others. Children who continue to express anger and frustration by hitting, yelling and throwing objects will not only have a difficult time making their needs understood, but may also socially isolate themselves. Knowing that there are more productive ways to express themselves and what they say and do affects other people plays a key role in making friends and being a part of the learning community.
3. Independence: Can play independently or in a small group without needing to be constantly supervised. Why It’s Important: With 20+ children in a class, all of whom learn in different ways and at different pace, it’s not possible for a kindergarten teacher to supervise every individual child all at the same time. As kindergarten progresses, group and independent work time is increased and children need to be able to work on their own without constant redirection. Not only does this prepare a child for future schooling, these are life skills that he will take to the work world. Your son should feel competent-he should feel that he can have an impact on the world.
4. Relatedness: should be able to take turns, share, converse, use polite language and play with other children without needing to be reminded. Why It’s Important: Your son will be able to engage with his peers and also understand his peers.
5. Self discipline: In kindergarten there will not be a toy or book for everyone. Your son needs to learn how to share materials, toys and attention before he gets to kindergarten. He’ll need to be able to do so in a socially acceptable way. This is also called self-regulation. Why It’s Important: Your son is building the foundation for interacting with others, this skill will be useful throughout his life. It also teaches him patience.
6. Curiosity: Your child should be able to think independently, explore new things and be willing to take risks. Why It’s Important: Going to kindergarten is a major transition for your son. He may experience separation anxiety. You should ask the school to arrange a trip to the kindergarten class to allow a smooth transition.
By Daseta Gray, an educator with over 20 years experience and can be found at www.SabreeEducationServices.com and www.SabreeHarlemParents.com. Twitter @KinderSuccess and on Facebook KindergartenSuccess.