It’s hard not to feel nostalgic about traditional back-to-school rituals such as shopping for school supplies, laying out first-day outfits and snapping photos before sending our tiny humans off into the world. And missing out on those rituals can be even more challenging for parents and caregivers of kindergarten students who may have been dreaming of (or dreading) this day for years. As an instructional specialist in pre-K to second grade curriculum my work focuses on re-designing the kindergarten child’s experience in public schools to be more developmentally appropriate, engaging and hands-on, both in a return to school setting and in distance learning. 

These are not tips on how to cram academics into your 5-year-old’s head. Instead this is a guide for how to encourage your child’s intellectual curiosity and get them eager to learn, even if they are getting online instruction. So foster a love of books and stories, and take a playful stance toward using math to solve everyday problems with these tips. 

Read Tons of Books! And, when you do read to your child, make those funny voices, laugh, dance, roll around on the floor. Reading needs to be the most joyful part of your day. This experience will make a lasting imprint on your child’s brain chemistry and life. What you read should be as varied as interests — silly stories, poems, song lyrics  — all good

Listen to Their Stories Encourage your child to tell you stories — especially when they are playing. Use these ideas and interests to encourage drawing, re-enacting and writing.  

Make Books Creating simple books from blank paper and a stapler is highly motivating for young children. After reading a family favorite, wonder with your child, “Might we make a book like this author did?” Work with your child on the drawings and words. Call a relative or friend and read the story — writing is meant to be read and shared.

Count Things Count all the things. The number of grocery bags, steps up to the porch, how many apples in the bowl — oops, I’m hungry and we have one less, how many now?

Talk about Math Try to include your child in conversations about math all day long. You have 10 cookies but 4 members in your family. How might you figure this out? Divide the cookies? Make larger cookies next time?

Use Stuff When supporting online math learning, connecting any learning to real world examples is essential. Learning about more or less? Making patterns? Try bringing out “manipulatives” such as blocks, cotton balls or pinecones

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