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Preparing your child for full-day kindergarten

Last year, Ontario, British Columbia and Prince Edward Island joined the ranks of provinces offering full-day kindergarten. While many parents welcome the transition to a full day of school one year earlier (or in Ontario even two years earlier at age four), some feel a sentimental twinge at the loss of those at-home preschooler years.

But research is on your child’s side. “On a practical level, kids in full-day kindergarten transition to Grade 1 more easily,” says Dr. Angela Valeo, an assistant professor at the Ryerson School of Early Childhood Education in Toronto, and a former primary school teacher. “Studies show they have better outcomes educationally throughout their schooling. In addition to increasing their literacy and mathematical outcomes, they learn socialization skills. Social confidence is a big part of stress reduction in school.”

Studies also show decreased delinquency, higher graduation rates and better long-term health outcomes for kids in a full-day kindergarten program.

F.H. Miller Jr. Public School in Toronto began the full-day learning program in September 2010, and the young students are already reaping the benefits, according to principal Marilyn Villett. “What I have observed is that they have advanced further in their skills in a shorter period of time. They have more time to learn. I’m amazed at how fast they’ve settled in to their routine. They’re not tired at all.” Villett described one lesson on shapes that lasted 45 minutes, but the children were engaged with their teacher throughout.

“Part of the beauty of the full-day program is that it is play-based,” says Dr. Valeo. “It’s not as if they are at a desk all day reciting the alphabet or doing worksheets. It’s a lot of exploratory learning and activity-based learning.” Full-day learning at an earlier age also helps level the playing field for kids. “Some kids may not have access to certain materials or learning experiences at home. The full-day kindergarten program closes that gap between kids from all backgrounds.”
If your child is eligible for full-day learning this fall, now is a good time to begin preparing your child for his or her new surroundings.

  • Call the school to register so you will be on mailing lists for “Welcome to Kindergarten” events.
  • Schedule an appointment to visit the school and the classroom during the day.
  • Take your child to the school playground to play in the area designated for kindergarten students. “The parent being there with the child, in the classroom and on the playground, allows them to view the school positively right from the start,” says Dr. Valeo.

If your child hasn’t been in daycare or other play groups, consider enrolling him in a library or music program before school starts. “Meeting other parents with kids in the same class is so important – it’s almost as important as meeting the teacher,” says Dr. Valeo.

Published in ParentsCanada, March 2011

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