By guest blogger and classroom teacher, Betsy Weigle.
We can start getting our little ones ready for the first day of school well before kindergarten begins. The first day of school is a very difficult transition, so any preparation we can provide for our children will help them focus on the fun of school rather than the anxiety.
Here are some seasonal thoughts for kindergarten readiness.
Winter: Let’s Talk
The sooner we can start getting our children into the habit of talking about school, the better. When they are young, we don’t have to ask our kids what happened during the day because weíre with them all the time. That changes when we drop them off at school…that’s when questioning strategies come in handy.
Parents can practice by asking questions whenever their children are away for a period of time (such as at daycare).
It’s not very effective to simply ask, “How was your day?” It’s more effective (and much better practice for school) to use specific phrases such as:
- Tell me the greatest thing that happened today.
- Tell me the worst thing that happened.
- What do you hope you’ll learn tomorrow?
If we begin to establish these conversational patterns with our children before they go to kindergarten, we’ll find it much easier to discuss the day’s events when they are in school…and you’ll be much more informed when you need to speak to your child’s teacher.
Spring: Getting to Know Your School
We don’t want the very first time that our children walk to school to be on the first day of the new school year. Although it will be several years before they are walking to school by themselves, it’s still important to familiarize them with the route. This is especially true if they will be escorted to school by one of their siblings. Older brothers and sisters are not always the most reliable escorts, so it’s important for your little ones to know where to go if they are somehow left on their own.
Familiarity with the school is also very important. Young children can experience a huge amount of anxiety when everything is brand new. When they are familiar with their new school and playground, they are better able to focus on their teacher and their learning without undue stress.
Make it a habit to play regularly on your future school’s playground, and even walk through the halls before it closes for the summer. It’s an easy way to increase their comfort level.
Summer: Cover the Basics
Some of the skills our children will need in school are basic but very important for parents to teach. For example, children entering kindergarten will find their lives much easier if they are able to unsnap, unzip, button and unbutton all of their clothing… and their backpacks as well. The Pre-K Success Kit was created by teachers and occupational therapists for children of all abilities to build fine motor skills, independence and confidence by simply playing with these Pre-K Success Kit tools.
Believe me: Your child’s teacher will be overwhelmed with buttoning and zipping on first day of school – she will truly appreciate any child who is self-sufficient in these tasks!
Another basic skill that must be taught is the ability to easily eat lunch on their own, which means ensuring that your children are able to open the items they will commonly be bringing with them to eat. These may include yogurt packets, juice boxes, or reusable food containers.
I know from my time as a mother to small children that we often open these items for our children when they are young, not thinking that they may be left completely on their own and somewhat mystified by the process on their first day of school.
It’s a fun idea to have a “school sack lunch day” a few times during the summer before kindergarten just to be certain your children are learning how to avoid frustration (and hunger!) at school.
School is a huge transition for our kids. Itís important to put some thought into getting them ready for their first, big day of kindergarten so the fun of school can start as soon as possible.