School districts vary widely in the amount of physical education they offer in the curriculum, so it's especially important for parents to encourage physical activity and model good behavior. Try to organize family activities that incorporate physical activity, such as after-dinner walks or raking leaves.
Explore age-appropriate lessons and sports for your kindergartener. These might include gymnastics or ballet classes or soccer lessons.
Limit the amount of time your child spends in front of the television or computer monitor. Children who spend a majority of their time engaged in sedentary activities have been found to have poor motor coordination skills. Limit the amount of time that your child remains inactive to no more than an hour at a time.
Make sure that your child has plenty of opportunities to play outside. Take advantage of local parks and playgrounds as much as possible. Outdoor play allows children to participate in a variety of healthy physical activities and also offers valuable non-physical benefits. It can foster cognitive and emotional development, by encouraging children to test their limits and explore unfamiliar pieces of equipment. Interacting with other children at parks and playgrounds also helps develop important social skills.
Emphasize safety to your child. Teach him to be vigilant when crossing the street and to play safely around cars. Show him how important it is to play safely with other children and on playground equipment, for example by avoiding falling on their neck and head.
Adults and children make bad choices at times, and supporting your child through hard decisions and poor choices shows you love them unconditionally. Of course you want to point out that some choices are not acceptable, but if your child makes the same mistake again, make sure to reinforce you still love him or her. You can also help them make up for those mistakes. Did your child hurt a friend? Have them write an apology note and ask for forgiveness.
Some decisions like which book to read at bedtime or whether your child wants carrots or sweet potatoes with dinner are not big choices for you, but allowing them the choice will make them feel more involved and give them more autonomy. Also, give them room to make decisions even if they don't make a choice you agree with, as long as the consequences don't affect their health or safety. For example, if your child wants to take their allowance to school, let them make that choice. If your child ends up losing a few dollars or coins at recess, your child will likely feel bad about it and learn that it wasn't a good idea. Letting children learn from their own mistakes is a great teaching opportunity that they will likely remember longer than if you had simply said "no" from the beginning.
This can help give your child tools they can use to make their own decisions in the future. Ask them questions like, "What do you think will happen if we don't wear our coats outside today?" or, "If you don't go to sleep on time, what do you think you'll be like at school tomorrow?" or, "How do you think your sister will feel if you play with her favorite toy without asking?" Taking another person's perspective enhances the quality of your child's decision-making because in order for your child to make the best decision, they must be able to understand how it will affect others. Learning that there are consequences for actions that affect your child and others is a good way to promote empathy and responsible decision-making.
Books that center on characters that have to make decisions, like the Berenstain Bears series, are a great option. Pause when the characters get to the problem. Ask your child what he or she thinks the bears should do, and what your child thinks will happen. Talk about the problem as you're reading, using terms like, "How would you solve this problem?" or, "What is the problem again?" and "What should Sister Bear do now?" This is a great opportunity to ask your child about problems they have faced recently and how they were able to solve them. For more age-appropriate book examples, see our reading list.
For example, inside or quiet voices need to be used in places like libraries and movie theaters, but cheering or loud yelling can be appropriate when watching sports or playing them. This allows your child to understand the differences in situations that can impact their decision-making.
Take a conversation you had with a friend, family member, or clerk at the supermarket that your child has witnessed and ask them to point out the language, body language and facial expressions that were exchanged. You can also role play with their stuffed animals or favorite toys to show what your child would have done in that situation. Even though your child was present when you had this exchange, it's always a good idea to ask what your child thinks happened, how people felt, and how they could tell this, before you provide your own interpretation of the situation.
A good way to teach your child about body language, emotions, and empathy is to have them play a game of "Feelings Charades." You can use flash cards with different faces, or even write emotions or behaviors that hurt others on pieces of paper and let your child pick one out of a hat. Take turns acting out the way a person would be feeling with either the emotion that's on the paper or the face that's on the card. This will help start discussions on topics that a child this age might be reluctant to talk about otherwise.
If you have pets, you can also use them to help teach your child about social awareness. A dog or a cat, for example, will behave in specific ways when it is feeling happy, angry, playful or tired. Point out these behaviors to your child as they appear, and explain to them how these emotions are similar to those experienced by the people around them.
Be specific when you are talking about what's appropriate and what's not, and provide visual cues. For example, you can have them stretch out their arms and explain that this is their personal space, and that your child should provide other children with that much space when interacting with them. Remind your child that when her or she gets too close to another person or touches them, they might react negatively. You can also use stuffed animals or action figures to act out what's appropriate and what is not.