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Ask A Baltimore Expert: 5 Tips For Getting Your Child Ready For Kindergarten

Preparing a child for kindergarten can be a daunting task - especially your first child. The child isn't necessarily prepared for the structure of a classroom yet, and you may not know exactly what to expect yourself. Fortunately, there are experts who are ready and able to help you with this challenge, and Kaitlin Gaj is one of the most qualified you could expect to find. With a Masters in Education from Drexel University, Kaitlin taught Kindergarten for six years, and has engaged in one-on-one tutoring for most of her career.
Kaitlin Gaj
Total Tutoring Services
Odenton, MD
(443) 604-9358
www.totaltutoringservices.comWhile Kaitlin loved teaching Kindergarten, she wanted to start her own business where she could still be involved in education and have more flexibility for family.  She founded Total Tutoring Services in 2008 to accommodate the growing need for one-on-one tutoring in the Baltimore area. Today they work with 50+ tutors throughout Baltimore, Howard and Anne Arundel counties, providing in-home support in all academic subjects for students from Pre-K through 12th grade. What sets Total Tutoring Services apart is the uniquely customized approach to private tutoring.  At Total Tutoring they know that one size does not fit all – every student has unique needs and learning styles.  Each child's tutor will create a customized study plan and tailor their lessons based upon their student's strengths and needs.
Read With Your ChildReading with your child is hands down the most important activity you can do to help your child develop language and reading skills. Set aside a special time each day to read together. Read your child's favorite books and rhymes over and over. Read favorites from your childhood, too. Talk to your child about the characters and the story. Let your child take more control by turning pages, pointing to the title of the book, and retelling some favorite parts of familiar stories.  Visit your local library and let your child choose their own books. Then go home, snuggle up, and help your child develop a love of reading.
Build Early Math SkillsOpportunities to teach our children basic math skills are all around us! As you go through the day, count the buttons on your child's clothing as they get dressed, count how many times they can bounce a ball and count the stairs when heading up to bed. Point out numbers in print on a speed limit sign as you drive down the road or let them help you read the prices at the grocery story.  Cook together and have your child help you measure ingredients. Play a board game and count the dots on the dice and the spaces you need to move. Math can be made "real" and meaningful just by pointing it out in the world around you.
Build Fine Motor SkillsGive your child crayons and paper often. Let them write letters, draw pictures or even just scribble. Drawing straight lines, curvy lines and shapes will help them to strengthen their hand muscles for writing letters and words later.  Let them explore with a variety of writing options, like colored pencils, crayons, markers and paint.  Introduce them to scissors and let them cut up play dough, magazines, straws and yarn. You will end up with a house full of confetti along with a happy child who is more confident in his or her cutting abilities.

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Encourage ResponsibilityIt's so easy as parents to take responsibility for our children's many, many things.  There is often so much of it and kids tend to be slower and it's easier to just do it for them.  However, in Kindergarten they are going to be responsible for their own belongings and materials. Start early by teaching your child how to put away things when they are done playing with them at home. Encourage them to clean up their toys, put lids back on markers and crayons in the box. Encourage your children to take responsibility for their actions. Set the bar high, they will surprise you with what they can do.
Foster Independence and Self-Care SkillsImagine a classroom full of 20+ kindergarteners all needing help with their zippers, buttons, snaps, tucking shirts in, tying shoe laces, opening lunches, emptying folders, etc. Welcome to the world of the Kindergarten teacher.  As parents, you can do your part by teaching your child valuable self-care skills. Don't assume that they can do something on their own just because you have always done it.  Allow them to dress themselves. Practice managing all those buttons, zippers and snaps both on their clothing and on their jackets.  At lunchtime give them the opportunity to practice opening containers, wrappers, bottles and juice boxes. Practice hand washing, nose blowing and coughing into their elbow. Practice, practice, practice! Your child's teacher will love you for it.

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Joel Furches is a freelance writer and researcher for The Examiner and Logos Software, and also manages his own catalog of writing on Hub Pages. Joel is on the board of directors for Ratio Christi. He has a bachelors in Psychology and a Masters in Education.
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