Children Need Nature: Getting Ready for Kindergarten

Leaf storting activityBy Shannon Wise, Nature Preschool Manager

Children Need Nature is a monthly blog column from our Nature Preschool program. Read more posts here.

Children Need NatureIf you walk along the trails with a Nature Preschool class, you might think you are just out for a breath of fresh air, to run and let go of some extra energy. Yes – it is that and so much more. You might notice children gathering leaves, counting as they go. Their teacher furthers the experience as she takes out four-colored pieces of construction paper to allow the children to sort by shades of fall. Soon, the children are discussing the attributes of each leaf as they categorize these natural objects. Expanding vocabulary can be heard as each child describes the shape or what makes the leaf they are holding unique. Throughout the experience, they are navigating space, taking turns in conversation, learning to wait to place their leaf until their friend is finished – all important social skills needed for the next step in their school journey. They are all a crucial piece of that term: readiness. Readiness for kindergarten, or the step after preschool, does not just mean knowing your letters and numbers. It is so much more and the transition can seem so overwhelming.

In Philadelphia and the surrounding area, there are many options for kindergarten. From public to charter, private to progressive, the choices can seem endless. This is great but is scary for a first-time parent or even a caregiver who is unsure of what type might be best for their child. When the door is opened up to the wide range of kindergarten schools out there, there are many aspects of readiness to consider; most importantly, are all of the players involved ready: the child, the family, the school, and even the community.

For us at Nature Preschool, we prepare children for kindergarten by starting with social and emotional skills. By supporting children in becoming critical thinkers, creative problem solvers, emotional regulators, and risk-takers, we are helping them build skills that will benefit them in kindergarten (and life beyond).  However, being ready for kindergarten takes the whole family.

So how can families be prepared? Start by visiting schools, researching options and identifying what type of learning environment matches the way in which your child learns best. Local kindergartens can (and should) identify the preschools from which their children are coming to be able to meet them where they are and build upon the foundation that has already been set. As for the community, different aspects of a neighborhood such as playgrounds, libraries, and other communal areas where families can gather  as they learn more about local schools and talk with one another.

Noticing this need amongst our parents and families, we are excited to introduce our coming Kindergarten Readiness 101 event on Thursday, November 10 from 6:30 – 7:30 pm, open to anyone who wants to hear more about making this transition. A panel of local teachers will talk about preparing for kindergarten and supporting children through the change – details on that here.

We’ll also use this event as an opportunity to make a special announcement – but shh, more on that on November 10!