Things parents can do right now to get kids ready for kindergarten

A summer intervention program can do wonders to prepare new students

There are things adults can do right now to teach kids skills they will need before they even enter kindergarten.

EUGENE, Ore. (Ivanhoe Newswire) --- Kindergarten is a crucial time in a child’s development. Education scientists find that getting started on the right foot can make all the difference—setting in motion positive outcomes—like better social growth, and a better chance of graduating high school.

There are things adults can do right now to teach kids skills they will need before they even enter kindergarten.

The transition to kindergarten can be tough on kids.

“My daughter she understands. She gets it, but it’s harder for her,” Olga Aguirre said.

It’s also tough on parents and teachers to deal with challenging behaviors that come with the transition.

“Nobody wants a power struggle with a four-year-old or a five-year-old. There’s no winning that,” said Kristen Barnett, preschool and KITS Teacher.

Katherine Pears, PhD, is a senior research scientist at Oregon Social Learning Center and is a child clinical psychologist. She studied an intervention program, KITS, or Kids in Transition to School, for children who are entering kindergarten. She said parents and teachers can use a summer intervention program to get kids ready for kindergarten, which doesn’t only involve reading, writing and arithmetic.

“But you also have the basic skills to be able to sit still and pay attention to a teacher or to be able to work it out if you get into an argument with your friend without maybe hitting your friend,” Pears said.

In a study of about 200 children with developmental disabilities who took part in KITS, “they’re showing better self-regulation, better ability to really control frustration, pay attention, not be disruptive in class,” Pears said.

For teachers like Kristen Barnett, KITS techniques have made teaching easier.

“Just to say, ’wow thank you for using your walking feet’ if you notice a kid is about to start running. Or ‘thank you for remembering to have a calm voice in the classroom,’ when you can tell the energy level is starting to rise, can make a change,” Barnett said.

Parents were also benefitting from KITS.

“We found the parents who had the KITS program and participated were doing better at being consistent, and then that led them to being more involved in school,” Pears said.

Part of the KITS program includes parents meeting twice a month and training sessions to learn different techniques, such as using the red light, green light game to increase kids’ self-regulation skills. And making tasks clear for kids by avoiding using “no,” “stop,” or “don’t” language.

“If you want your child to pick up their shoes, you don’t want to say, ‘don’t leave your shoes there.’ You want to say, ‘please put your shoes on the stairs,’” Pears said.

Aguirre had two kids take part in KITS. She can really see the impact.

“I saw them more interested in reading and more interested in learning,” Aguirre said.

Kids who took part in the KITS intervention during the summer were found to have better literacy skills compared to the group that did not receive the KITS intervention, according to their teachers. Teachers also reported KITS kids as having better self-regulation skills at the end of kindergarten.