Getting Ready for Kindergarten: Building Social-Emotional Skills

An article to help families build the social and emotional skills needed for kindergarten after a long period of unexpected changes.

Change in normal routines have created unique challenges for children and families, and one of those challenges is that many children have missed important opportunities to develop the social-emotional skills that set them up for school success. Fortunately, parents are children’s first and most important teachers, and you can help children practice some basic social-emotional skills before they enter the classroom. 

Taking Turns: Practice turn taking with children by using verbal cues (“my turn, your turn” or “first you, then me, now you, now me”) and timers to show how much time they will have to wait for their turn. You can use a digital timer, like on a phone or tablet, a kitchen timer, or a sand timer. 

Sharing is Caring: Sharing with others is an important school readiness skill, and a little different than taking turns! Practice this skill with little ones by engaging together in cooperative or collaborative play, like building a block tower together or painting together using the same jar of paintbrushes (older children might join you in painting on the same page). 

Whole-Body Listening: Playing Simon Says (or Elmo Says!) is a great way to help children practice listening and following directions. Try adding each element of whole-body listening into the game (“Elmo says… sit criss-cross on the floor, look at my face, use calm hands,” and so on). You can also challenge them to listen to an entire story without interrupting! 

Managing Big Feelings: Managing big feelings is a skill that can take lots of practice! The three step strategy “Breathe, Think, Do” can help in tough moments. 

Independence: Help children practice and build confidence with self-care tasks that they may need to do themselves in a school setting, such as cleaning up after themselves, putting on and taking off their own jackets or shoes, using a lunch box, and so on.