By Guest Blogger Blair Hawley, Head of Lower School, Westchester Country Day School

Parents often ask what they can do to ensure a child is ready for school, and our experienced teachers have wonderful tips to encourage readiness and continued success through the school years. Westchester teachers Debbie Christiansen, Emily Mercadante and Sue Horney have 80 years of combined experience teaching pre-K and kindergarten.

Our experts from the front lines recommend six tips for success that you can start doing with your child today…

Tip 1: Read Together

Daily reading is one of the most powerful things you can do!

“Reading opens up a whole world of knowledge and vocabulary. It provides a chance to talk with your kids about their interests and help them know those interests are important and valid. Books give you a solid place to start conversations and open up the world. Reading propels them into a curious state, and that is a wonderful way to begin school.” – Emily Mercadante

“Parents will be so amazed at the sense of attention and focus that is measurable even at a young age and how reading creates ‘I wonder’ moments that establish a groundwork for answering questions and creating that sense of curiosity and wonder that learning is all about.” – Sue Horney

successTip 2: Share Everyday Activities for Success

Involving kids in household activities like cooking and getting the mail introduces a chance to practice counting, comparing sizes and measuring.

“It’s a great way for parents to start an academic foundation without actually feeling like they are doing academics. Fun, real-life applications of things like looking at a calendar help children start making connections, and connections are the key to long-term learning.” – Emily Mercadante

Tip 3: Practice Fine Motor Skills

Before writing, there are many activities around your house that can help with practicing fine motor skills.

“It is so helpful for children to have exposure to things like Play-Doh, Legos, painting with fingers or brushes, beads, cutting with scissors (supervised, of course), and using tweezers for little objects to develop the fine motor skills they need when we start focusing on how to write and spell their names.” – Debbie Christiansen

successTip 4: Tip: Go Outside

Kids need to be running, climbing and swinging. Therefore, using the shoulders for big, gross motor movements helps with writing later on. Kids love to collect items from nature like rocks, sticks and acorns. Comparing the sizes, colors and shapes builds excellent vocabulary and observational skills.

Tip 5: Provide Social Opportunities for Success

Social activities encourage social and emotional maturity.

“Provide opportunities for sharing, talk about how we all don’t have to do the same thing at the same time in the same way, create a sense of awareness that we follow the rules of a game. Offering opportunities to build emotional maturity and readiness beyond the walls of the family with opportunities to extend and be with others is a significant part of readiness of a young child.” – Sue Horney

Tip 6: Set a Routine

The school day is structured, and therefore, routines help prepare students for that step.

“One example is an evening routine: dinner, then bath time, then story time, then bedtime at a certain time. Knowing you are going to do those things every day helps children come in expecting structure. I find that helpful for the ones who have that in place when they come to school.” – Debbie Christiansen

Beyond readiness, one of the best tips to set your child up for success is by choosing a school that fits his or her individual needs. Tour schools and get a feel for how they are different. Meet the teachers and consider the class size. One thing I feel is important as a parent and educator is the opportunity to learn through play. At Westchester, we encourage this type of learning every day in small class sizes where teachers can get to know the students and their families.

We hope these tips are of great use. Getting those first years right is incredibly important. It is when the foundations are built for the years of school ahead, and for what I hope for your child is the discovery of a lifetime joy for learning.

It is a great joy to meet families who are looking at pre-kindergarten or kindergarten programs and help introduce their children to elementary school. At Westchester Country Day School, we welcome students into pre-K at age four and kindergarten at age five. If you’d like to talk more, visit our classrooms, and meet our incredible teachers, call Kerie Beth Scott, director of admissions, at 336-822-4005.

Sponsored by Westchester Country Day School