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KITS: Giving Kids a Leg Up in Learning

EUGENE, Ore. (Ivanhoe Newswire)—Kindergarten is a crucial time in a child’s development. Education scientists find that getting started on the right foot can make all the difference—setting in motion positive outcomes—like better social growth and a better chance of graduating high school. There are things adults can do right now to teach kids skills they will need before they even enter kindergarten.

The transition to kindergarten can be tough on kids. “My daughter she understands. She gets it, but it’s harder for her,” shared Olga Aguirre.

And it’s also tough on parents and teachers to deal with the challenging behaviors that come with the transition. “Nobody wants a power struggle with a four-year-old or a five-year-old. There’s no winning that,” said Kristen Barnett, a preschool and KITS Teacher.

Katherine Pears, PhD, a child clinical psychologist at the Oregon Social Learning Center, studied the intervention program KITS, or Kids in Transition to School, for children who are entering kindergarten. She says parents and teachers can use a summer program intervention to get kids ready for kindergarten, which doesn’t only involve reading, writing and arithmetic…“But also having the basic skills to be able to sit still and pay attention to a teacher or to be able to work it out if you get into an agreement with your friend without maybe hitting your friend,” Pears explained.

In a study of about 200 children with developmental disabilities who took part in KITS, the children showed, “better self-regulation, better ability to really control frustration, pay attention, not be disruptive in class,” continued Pears.

For teachers like Kristen Barnett, KITS techniques, such as thanking in advance, has made teaching easier. “Just to say, ‘wow thank you for using your walking feet’ if you notice a kid is about to start running, or ‘thank you for remembering to have a calm voice in the classroom,’ when you can tell the energy level is starting to rise,” stated Barnett.

So does using when, then language. “When you’re sitting with the group, then you’ll earn your sticker,” explained Barnett.

Parents were also benefitting from KITS. “We found the parents who had the KITS program and participated were doing better at being consistent and then that led them to being more involved in school,” said Pears.

Part of the KITS program includes parents meeting twice a month and training sessions to learn different techniques, such as using the red light, green light game to increase kids’ self-regulation skills. And making tasks clear for kids by avoiding using “no,” “stop,” or “don’t” language.

“If you want your child to pick up their shoes, you don’t want to say ‘don’t leave your shoes there.’ You want to say, ‘please put your shoes on the stairs,’” Pears said.

Mom, Olga Aguirre, had two kids take part in KITS. She can really see the impact. “I saw them more interested in reading and more interested in learning,” smiled Olga.

Kids who took part in the KITS intervention during the summer were found to have better literacy skills compared to the group that did not receive the KITS intervention, according to their teachers. Teachers also reported KITS kids as having better self-regulation skills at the end of kindergarten.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Executive Producer; Milvionne Chery, Field Producer; and Roque Correa, Editor.

Produced by Child Trends News Service in partnership with Ivanhoe Broadcast News and funded by a grant from the Institute of Education Sciences (IES).

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