By: Courtney Jacobson, Director of Camp Shai & Youth Services

Entering into Kindergarten is a big milestone for children (and their parents!).

We also know that this transition is often challenging for many children (and their parents!). It’s totally natural for children to be nervous about what’s next. Rishonim (meaning “firsts” or “starters” in Hebrew), Camp Shai’s group for rising Kindergarteners, provides the perfect space to practice for Kindergarten.

Rishonim supports Kindergarten readiness by teaching campers new skills, promoting communication and social emotional growth at an age appropriate level, focusing on problem-solving skills to boost their independence before the school year starts, and getting those much needed play-based activities to promote creative play and body awareness. Plus…we have a whole lot of fun in the process!

All of the experiential learning at camp can contribute to a smoother transition to Kindergarten in the fall. Research shows the following eight main characteristics as a measure to determine what your child needs to be as successful as possible in their Kindergarten year:

  1. Following Simple Directions
  2. Using the Restroom & Independently Feeding Themselves
  3. Recognizing some letters and numbers
  4. Working on fine and gross motor skills
  5. Getting Along with Peers
  6. Sitting Still – This doesn’t mean that your child should be able to sit completely still for a period of time necessarily, but long enough to listen to a story and participate in activities.
  7. Handling emotions and communicating his/her needs and wants––it’s normal for a five year old to break down in tears when he/she is upset, but it’s important that he/she knows his/her feelings and has coping strategies.
  8. Showing an interest in learning and demonstrating a curiosity about trying new activities.

At Camp Shai, we practice all of these skills, and have anecdotally found campers who attend Rishonim for multiple weeks are more ready to enter Kindergarten than they were at the beginning of the summer. Counselors put a lot of love each day into programming and facilitating games to connect campers to one another and help them grow. From transition games to songs to Arts & Crafts, Camp Shai encourages campers to gain new interests and build up their fine and gross motor skills. By encouraging campers to begin to advocate for themselves and ask for what they need (from opening a Tupperware full of snack to navigating a conflict with a friend), camp helps develop their independence. Finally, we focus lots of time and attention in all groups at camp, but particularly in Rishonim, to develop campers’ social emotional growth. Camp Shai is a fun and safe space where campers can learn how to make friends and truly be themselves. Taking educational outcomes of school out of the mix, campers get to focus on being bigger and better people each day.

As the old adage goes, “All I really need to know, I learned in Kindergarten.” While I think that’s absolutely true, I would also add that summer camp ultimately builds a strong foundation for a camper’s Kindergarten year in school.

Do you agree? Perfect! Begin the summer registration process for Camp Shai by clicking here.

Working Citations:
Ward,K. (2018) How to Know if your child is ready to start Kindergarten

Have any questions about Camp Shai? Feel free to email me at I hope to see you and your child this summer!