Kindergarten is an exciting time for children but it can also be a stressful time of change, not just for little ones, but for parents too. Although each child is unique and develops at his or her own pace, most educators and experts agree that four key areas of development are essential for further growth and achievement in school.

To help your child adjust to kindergarten and make a smooth transition, here are a few ways parents can support these key areas of development at home:

Vocabulary and Oral Language Development

Encourage your child to communicate through words. Ask your child to tell you a story, and ask questions that encourage them to be descriptive. For example, if your child says a dog was chasing a stick, ask what color was the dog? Did he run fast or slow? Was the stick big or small? In public, give your child opportunities to speak for themselves or make requests. If they’re asked what they want to eat and drink at a restaurant, let them reply, even if you know what they want.

Social-Emotional Skills

Children will use social-emotional skills every day in kindergarten, whether they’re asking a teacher for help, being polite to classmates or following instructions. Scheduling a fun, unstructured play date is a great way to let children interact with their peers, helping them learn to share and express themselves through play.

Small Motor Control

Developing small motor skills can be as easy as coloring with your child and cutting with scissors – anything that gets those fingers and toes moving! Other great activities include putting puzzles together, building with blocks, throwing, catching and kicking a ball, riding a tricycle and outdoor activities like running, jumping and climbing.

Attention to Sensory and Visual Detail

Paying attention to our senses is a mindful practice that can help children in the academic world of kindergarten. Noticing textures, smells and tastes, and using language to describe these details provide vocabulary development as well as encourage children to compare and contrast their experiences. Offer a variety of snacks during snacktime and ask your child to describe the food with words like sweet or sour, crunchy or juicy, rough or smooth. When playing with puzzles, ask your child to sort the puzzle pieces and then describe what the pieces share – colors, patterns, edges, or other visual details.

Children enter kindergarten at many different levels, so don’t worry if your child hasn’t mastered all his or her letters, sounds and numbers yet. Their teacher will practice these skills with your child throughout the school year, but you can help by continuing to reinforce them at home.

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