Have you ever heard of a deconstructed salad? It is a salad that has all the components separately instead of mixed all together. For those “When Harry Met Sally” fans, it is kind of all “on the side.”
I think the six-year-old kindergarten year is a bit like that; sometimes we have to really analyze the separate components and tailor those components.
This last year of kindergarten need not be intense, but I think six- year -olds do need something “more”. And we are fortunate that in the home environment we able to meet our child where they are.
Here are a few of my thoughts as to the “must- have’s” of the six year old kindergarten year:
- Increased participation in the religious life of the family; preparing for attending your place of worship, preparing for festivals
- Participating in a strong daily rhythm of practical work and outside time of organized movement – six-year-olds need to go outside and do something more than just stand there, so especially if they are an only or oldest, you may have to set up specific tasks (digging in the garden, hauling this, carrying that, crossing over this stream on a log, riding this bike, roller skating, ice skating, skiing, etc.)
- If you were one of the families where doing a circle time worked for you, this may be the year that your six year old balks at it. If there are younger siblings in the house, you may be able to “get away” with circle time for a bit longer on the guise that the six year old is leading it for the younger siblings (or that at least gives you the ability to carry on. Otherwise, I suggest you replace your morning circle time with movement and then prayers, verses of meaning with movement, a seasonal poem with movement, singing of hymns and other music.
- Games are important: checkers; chinese checkers; Mancala; Roads, Rivers and Rails. Plan game sessions at least several times a week.
- Having a “collection” is important, whatever that may be – postcards, stamps, coins, cards, buttons, etc. This is important pre-mathematical thinking when a child categorizes and sorts, and estimates how many of their collection might fit in one box or one slot of a storage container.
- Up the painting, modeling, drawing experiences your child is receiving.
- Handwork and craft projects should be more complex and may take longer than one session to complete. Sometimes one can model discs out of salt dough, for example, decorate them, dry them, paint them and then string them into a windchime , for example. Finger knitting and knitting on a spool can also be good work for a six year old. Don’t forget fingerplays to warm those fingers up!
- Social experiences are of increasing importance. I think a six year old, especially a six year old who is the oldest or the only, needs experiences playing with children their own age and also in being the outside observer in watching a group of children slightly older play. Feel free to disagree here, and take what works for you!
- Give them some stories with some “meat”. Those sweet and simple repetitive stories are really for those under five. For six year olds, I like stories such as The Frog King, The Wolf and The Seven Little Kids (I know many parents, who for some reason, had “issues” with this tale, but with the right child this tale is wonderful – they just laugh and laugh at the end and are so happy to rejoice with the little family of goats! Maybe save this one for spring), The Fisherman and His Wife, Mother Holle, Little Red Cap, The Bremen Town Musicians, The Golden Goose, Hans in Luck, The Three Brothers, The Star Money, Snow White and Rose Red, Briar Rose.
- Some families will start doing stories on a weekly or two-week basis instead of one story per month. I think that is up to you as a family and what you observe in your child.
- Gardening and cooking can also be “upped’” with more responsibilities and participation. Think about de-mechanizing things as much as possible so your child has to really work and use those muscles! Here is a place local to me that has many options for de-mechanizing things, I have not been there yet, but the catalogue looks great! http://www9.mailordercentral.com/cumberlandgeneral/
- Do you have pets your child can help care for? Aquariums, terrariums, dogs, cats, livestock?
- Save some things for SPRING. If your child is going to be six and half or six and a quarter in the spring, you may need to have some things to pull out of your hat if they are “bored.” Foreign languages done orally can be a good place to start, as can increasing handwork, or physical activities. I am not a huge fan of lessons for children in their last year of Kindergarten, but perhaps you can find a place that is more laid back and gives a child a sense of “class” as many six-year-olds really want to do “class” and “real school”. Sometimes there are homeschooling groups that have a class that might fit the bill. I find this wanting to do something like a “class’” is often more of a little girl phenomenon – maybe just participation in the life of your place of worship would do the trick.
- If you cannot hold off this child anymore, then by all means, start with some math. However, what I have found through many families in the past, is that after about a week the six-year-old doesn’t want to do it anymore;they would rather go play. This may not be your child, but I would urge you to not get too attached to starting something academic this last year even if they seem “ready.” If they are “ready” in April or May it is almost the end of the school year for many families, so I advise you to stay the course if you can.
- Quiet time after lunch and going to bed early is still important. A six-year-old does not have a good sense of when to stop or slow down or rest. They will “go” until they melt into a puddle.
- Six-year-olds can be rather brash to say the least; some can be downright angry for most of the six-year-old year. So,in regards to parenting in this year: the six –year- old still needs to have limited choices and a strong sense of parental authority; an authority that is calm but willing to set DIRECT boundaries – very, very, important for the six year old. The six –year -old needs more more direct statements of fact, “This is the way we do things.” “I am the person to help you.” “I know how to do this and can help you.” “That is the rule in our family.”
- And they still need you to help move them with gentle hands when they are upset. I had an incident at the pool yesterday with my six and a half year old, and I made her get out of the water. I had to go in and get her, take her by the arm, and lead her to a chair. She was protesting and such, but I just said, “You may sit down.” Protest, protest, protest. “You may sit down.” She sat down and I sat with her and we talked a minute about what she was doing. She ended up being teary with her head in my lap, but she eventually had a snack and went back to play. However, I don’t think that would have happened if I gotten completely angry or if I had just used a bunch of words.
Hope these ideas are helpful; take what works for you and your family.