Over the past few months, we've had the chance to talk with a number of kindergarten teachers about what it means for a child to be kindergarten-ready. Many of their answers were striking: kindergarten-ready children are excited to come to school, they are eager to hear what their teachers and classmates have to say, they love books and are eager for story-time, and they "use their words" to solve problems!
But there's one particular comment that has stayed with us. One teacher told us that on the first day of kindergarten she likes to ask how many of the children have seen the Mississippi River. She finds that the show of hands that follows tells her who is likely to be "kindergarten-ready."
How so? Certainly, there's no magic connection between visiting the Mississippi and being ready for school. But there is a strong connection between the range of experiences young children have and their readiness when they reach kindergarten.
Science tells us that children learn in an environment of relationships, and everything that happens to a young child, both good and bad, contributes to their early brain development and, in time, to their readiness to thrive when they reach kindergarten. In this spirit, when parents help their children learn about the world, they are expanding their horizons and, in the process, are increasing their curiosity, self-confidence, problem-solving skills, and even strengthening their developing vocabularies. All of these are vital kindergarten-readiness skills.
In this sense, visiting the Mississippi is a sign of a family that has introduced a young child to their world, helping to foster their exploration and curiosity, while spending quality-time with family and friends.
Summer is a great time for adventures with young children and this issue of Research to Policy offers a "Best of" list activities in and around Memphis that are fun for families and developmentally-enriching for young children.
Let us know what's missing from our list, and enjoy!