Preparing For Kindergarten
For most families with children, the end of summer is known as “back to school” time. However, for some soon-to-be students and their families, this phrase may be inaccurate.
Each year, many children begin their formal schooling experiences for the first time when they enter kindergarten. For this reason, preparing for kindergarten is both a time of unique celebrations and challenges.
Skill and ability levels vary greatly among individual children entering kindergarten. It is important for parents to remember that while academic skills are necessary, social and self-help skills are just as, if not more, essential when going to kindergarten. There are many things parents can do to help ensure that their kids are as ready as possible when they start school.
Options for Preparation
One option early on to prepare children for school is to enroll them in preschool. Research does suggest that children who attend preschool are often better prepared for the transition to kindergarten compared to children who did not go to preschool.
Just sending one’s child to preschool does not ensure school readiness. The preschool or other early childhood education program must be a quality one. This means, among other things, having a supportive, nurturing environment and evidence-based and age-appropriate curriculum and expectations.
Alternatively, for parents who choose not to send their children to preschool, there are many other ways to adequately prepare kids for school. For example, development of social skills is often considered a benefit of preschool. However, parents can encourage these same skills by having their children participate in other opportunities for play with peers such as in community groups like MOPS or toddler art classes.
In general, whether it be with preschool or not, long-term preparation for kindergarten and beyond is all about nurturing a child’s desire to learn while promoting that learning in natural and meaningful ways.
Reviewing and Rehearsing
Talking about and reading books about kindergarten with children can help them become familiar with this upcoming milestone in a non-threatening way. It is also recommended that children be introduced to their new school environment before that first day such as at a class orientation or open house.
If this type of event is not offered at a child’s school, parents may want to contact the school and ask for an introduction visit to tour the classroom and meet the teacher, especially if their child is slow to adapt.
Another way to help ensure a successful start in kindergarten is to begin school-like routines early, before the first day of school. Things to consider in your preparation routine are bedtime and wake up times, nutritious meals, and appropriate leisure activities.
Having a routine already in place can be comforting for both children and their parents, especially on that possibly stressful first day.
Stay Positive and Keep Talking
On that day in particular there are some things to remember. The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) reminds parents to stay positive and avoid behaviors that may be upsetting to their children. Possible upsetting behaviors may include parents crying as they wave goodbye, showing impatience or annoyance with the bus driver and aid if they are late during that first week, or arguing with children about their outfit or eating all their breakfast.
Starting school is very exciting but can also be very stressful for children. By avoiding these and other upsetting behaviors, parents can prevent their children from experiencing some common situations of stress on their first day as kindergarteners.
In the end, remember that kindergarten is just the beginning. It is our job as parents to do all we can to prepare our children and help them develop a positive attitude toward school and learning. When we instill positive outlooks towards school in our kids, they are set on a bright path.
That is what’s important as parents watch their babies head off to kindergarten.