Happy New Year! Now that you’ve made it through the holidays, you might have a moment to think about New Year’s goals and resolutions. Here’s one to put on the list: preparing your child for their educational journey by readying them for kindergarten.
You may have a future doctor, artist, or teacher right before your own eyes, and you play a big role in your child’s educational journey. You are your child’s first teacher from the moment they are born. Every engaging interaction you have with your child, such as talking, reading, playing, and exposing them to new experiences such as the zoo or gymnastics, helps support their brain development.
After all, 90% of a child’s brain is developed by age 5. That means by the time they enter kindergarten, they have formed all the brain connections they’ll ever have for interacting with others, solving problems and building life skills.
The Florida Voluntary Prekindergarten (VPK) Program is a great resource to help nourish your child’s growing mind as you think about your child’s milestones for 2023. According to the Division of Early Learning, in fall of 2021, non-participating VPK children were only 38% ready for kindergarten compared to VPK participants that were 61% ready for kindergarten. Children that are kindergarten ready are more likely to graduate from high school, be healthier adults, and earn higher incomes.
All Florida children who are 4 years old by Sept. 1 are eligible for the complimentary VPK program. Even better, you can pick which learning environment you prefer for your child, such as private school, public school, a child care center or a family child care home.
The Florida VPK program is a smart way to transition your 4-year-old into kindergarten while you continue to be your child’s first teacher. For many children going straight from their home environment, kindergarten can be scary. VPK helps both caregiver and child adjust to the new educational journey.
It allows your child to build their social skills, learn what it’s like to be away from their caregiver, instill trust in a new adult, and learn how to interact with other children of the same age. It allows your child to form higher literacy and numerous skills and more importantly, learn new skills through play. Time spent is typically a few hours a day Monday through Friday, but hours differ by location.
The New Year is the perfect time to start researching a VPK program that works well for you and your child. The process can seem stressful and foreign, especially if this is your firstborn. Visit the VPK program you are interested in and bring your young learner to involve them in the new journey.
Once you have found a location that works well for everyone, you can apply for the VPK certificate by going to www.elchc.org and selecting ‘Apply For Free VPK’ from the drop-down menu on the homepage. Once you have applied, the VPK certificate will be sent to your email. You will then send the certificate to the VPK program of your choice.
Knowing your child is in a safe, supportive environment and growing their young mind allows you to go about your day being productive in your own life journey. The Early Learning Coalition of Hillsborough County has many great resources to help prepare children from birth to 5 years old for kindergarten with early learning programs, engaging activities to do with your child at home and free family community events.
As you write your goals for 2023, don’t forget to add Preparing My Child For Kindergarten.
*Presented by the Early Learning Coalition of Hillsborough County | Image: Freepik.com | Originally published in January 2023 of Tampa Bay Parenting Magazine.