For many parents in many countries, it's difficult to know if and when their children are ready for kindergarten and how to best prepare them to this great journey. According to Cora Causey, Ph.D., instructor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Education, “Kindergarten readiness is not just about learning your letters, numbers and shapes through flashcards.”

Parents and early childhood educators can do much more, such as looking early at their children's cognitive skills, but also their social-emotional skills - so essential to enter a collaborative environment like kindergarten. Coping and self-regulation, relationship development and executive function, in particular, have a fundamental role in preschoolers' development. Which includes capacities to share, take turns, and understand when to speak and listen; while doing all this with appropriate manners, of course.

“Asking open-ended questions fosters the natural curiosity and wonder that kids are born with," said Causey. You can do this as you are riding in the car or the bus, going to the grocery store, or during any other activity throughout the day. Parents should not only throw words at their children, but create more of a narrative by asking a lot of questions. The goal is to have more face-to-face interaction instead of screen interaction.

How children learn and use symbols and images is directly related to their cognitive development. So the goal is to enhance their skills through numeracy and literacy activities in order to prepare them for kindergarten. Reading aloud to/with your children, as well as asking them questions related to content, images or even their feelings while reading books are great ways to boost their cognitive abilities.

Using math language related to household objects can also be a strong help for a child's optimum development. Outside the house, when kids play in a sandbox and pour sand in two buckets, a good example of a question is to ask them which one of two buckets contains more and which one contains less sand. Moreover, 4 to 5 years old kids should also be able to have conversational loop. When asked questions, they should be able to come with other answers. However, they also should be able to ask additional questions about successive answers.

Picture: Preparing your child for kindergarten (The University of Alabama)