ELIZABETHTON — The calendar may say summer is just beginning, but a Carter County education expert says it is time for parents to start preparing their 5-year-olds and soon-to-be-5-year-olds for kindergarten.
Peggy Campbell is director of the Head Start program for the Carter County School System. She has previously worked with the Carter County School System as a kindergarten administrator and an elementary school principal.
Campbell said it is important to start preparing young children for their first educational experience, whether it is kindergarten, pre-kindergarten or Head Start, by building a foundation for them and preparing their bodies for the routine of school.
“The need to be well-rested,” Campbell said. That means adjusting their body clocks for the early morning hours of school. She said now is the time to start putting the children into the bedtime hours they will need once school starts.
While young children need around 8 hours of sleep each night, Campbell’s experience as a parent taught her that each child has different needs. She said her youngest son needed a full 8 hours and had no trouble falling asleep as soon as he was sent to bed. She said her older son needed less sleep and if she sent him to bed too soon he would toss and turn and have a difficult time getting to sleep. Allowing him to stay up a little later helped him fall asleep.
The key is each child should be starting the day well-rested.
While children need to become accustomed to early bedtimes, Campbell said it is also important to get children accustomed to eating a good breakfast.
Campbell said parents may also need to work with their children on going to the bathroom without help.
There is also some documentation that must be provided to the school system at the start of classes, Campbell said. These documents include a birth certificate. A child must be 5 years old by Sept. 30 to be eligible for kindergarten. Other documentation includes the child’s Social Security number, a physical examination within the past year, and an up-to-date shot record.
Campbell said parents can also help their children get off to a good start by building a foundation of knowledge on which a child can quickly start to build. She said children should be able to count to 10 and identify numbers up to 5.
“They should also know some of the letters of the alphabet and be able to write their own name,” Campbell said.
There are also some social skills that parents can help their children acquire before school starts. This includes learning to share. Campbell said an enjoyable way to learn sharing is by playing board games with children. She said the games also teach the children to take turns and to follow rules.
A major change in the lives of 5-year-olds is coming and it is time to start preparing them for a successful start to their educational careers.
“Every child is different,” Campbell said. “Some are going to need a little more help than others.”