Returning Ready! for Kindergarten mom, Robyn McGilvery, is surrounded by her daughters (from left), Stella, Isla and Reva McGilvery, just moments before another free PSD community program offered last month, at Minter Creek Elementary school. Photo by Scott Turner, KP News

Key Peninsula parents whose young children don’t go to preschool have an opportunity to prepare their kids for school through a new free program called Ready! for Kindergarten.

The program was developed in Kennewick, Wash. and introduced this past May at Minter and Evergreen Elementary schools for children who would be entering kindergarten in September, according to Michelle Harrison, a school readiness facilitator with Peninsula School District.

Ready! for Kindergarten provides parents with a “tool kit”of cards, beads, shapes, alphabet letters and other items for playing with their children.

Research shows that children’s brains are really developing between birth and age 5, Harrison said, so this program “helps parents have purposeful play at home with their kids.”

Parents attend a free 90-minute training session and are given their own games (tools) and instructions on how to use them.

Then they use the system at home to play with their children, making each playtime a learning experience.

“We encourage parents to play little games with their kids –– like when they go to a store, say  “Let’s look for a letter ‘A’,”Harrison said.

“We’re trying to show parents that they are their children’s first teacher. So from the time a child is born, the more parents interact with their baby the more their baby is going to learn, because the parents are the most important people in babies’lives and they are going to learn from their parents,”she added.

Caren Halvorson, a volunteer who works at Vaughn, calls Ready! for Kindergarten “an amazing program.”

“Each age group gets different tools and goals. There are tools for 3- and 4-year olds, and goals for 4- to 5 year-olds.

“The goals ––we call them targets ––are things like being able to recognize the letters of their first name and being able to recognize 12-15 letters and their sounds by the time they get to kindergarten,”Halvorson said.

Robyn McGilvrey, a 34-year-old mother from Minterwood has taken Ready! classes for all three of her kids.

“We learn fun games and rhymes and so forth. I learned a lot of new games and things to do with my children ––new things that my kids like to do because it’s not the same old stuff we have at home,”McGilvrey said.

“The first time around we got sorting beads and we practiced motor skills by stringing the beads on a string. We also have card games. We keep everything in a special box so my kids know it’s a special time when we bring out that little box,” she added.

Six-year-old Reva McGilvrey liked playing with the Ready! tools. “We learned games like Toppett and Go Fish,”Reva said.

“The cards have pictures and a same number ––like three dogs. I like playing with mom with the cards. There’s another game with a little puzzle and you put the puzzles together and then you make a story out of them. It’s a learning game,” she said, moments before another gathering  at Minter Creek Elementary School.

Harrison is a firm believer in the Ready! program.

“If your kid hasn’t done preschool, this is a great thing for them. It gives you the tools so they can catch up, This is a really great program,”she said.

“In kindergarten, kids that have been to preschool kind of get bored because they have to wait for the other kids to catch up. So this helps keep all the kids even,” she added.

The next free Ready! training session for parents will take place in February. The training and the tools are free for Key Peninsula families.

For information call the Early Childhood Referral line at (253) 530-1168, or email harrisonm@nullpsd401.net.

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