Things to do to help prepare your child for Kindergarten
Summer is quickly slipping away and school is right around the corner. Ugh. If you are like me, summer rules and school drools (yes, I am insane).
With the school year, comes homework, projects (ugh), making lunches, and endless sporting events and driving!! Most kids jump into all of this with gusto and excitement, awaiting the day they will be reunited with friends and teachers and are finally able to use those brand new school supplies (which will be destroyed within a week).
If your child is older, they know the drill. They have done this all before and know what to do and how to do it. But, what do you do to prepare your little kindergartener? This will be their first time on a bus! This will be their first time eating lunch at school! This might very well be their first time away from you!
Below are some things that we have done to prepare our little ones for the BIG DAY. This is not an all inclusive list, just a few ideas that may make the transition easier for them (and you!).
The biggest challenge for a little 5 year old is to sit still for a LONG period of time. This is a skill that can be taught. It takes a while, but it is something that is important. They will be sitting all day (or for half a day) at school, so they do need to master this.
Have them sit and do a quiet activity at the kitchen table. Start with a minute or two if this is a new concept for them. Increase the time daily by a minute or two until they can at least sit and do something quietly for about 30 minutes. This is about the time that some of the longer activities in school take at their level. They do not have to sit absolutely still during this - just give them something "quiet" to do like look at a book or color a picture.
Taking them to church has always been our favorite way of teaching them to sit quietly. Nothing makes them learn faster than sitting in the front pew under the gaze of the priest. Give them the hymnal to look through, buy them a prayer book to read along with, or just have them sit there. An hour in church seems like a lifetime to a kid, so anything in school will seem simple compared to that.
If your child will be at all day kindergarten, practice having lunch at home. Use a real lunchbox (preferably the one that they will be using at school). Pack a lunch for them and have them open everything in the lunchbox, (ie: all the tupperware, juice boxes, cheese sticks, yogurts, etc...). This is good practice for their little hands. Nothing is worse than getting to school and having them be unable to open something they would like to eat. This gives you an idea of what they can and cannot open. Now you know what not to send to school for lunch, because it will come home uneaten until they learn how to open it.
In our school, the kids get 20 minutes to eat. I would set a timer for 20 minutes to show them how long that was. I would have my child eat their lunch to see if they can eat that fast. If they are a slow eater, this shows them how much time they have and how to learn to eat within that time. This is also a good way for you to figure out how much to pack for them. I always overpack their food (just in case they are hungrier), but you do not want to pack so much that they waste it. If they only eat a sandwich and a yogurt for lunch in that time, then that is all you need to pack. If you pack more stuff, and they are a slow eater, chances it will all come back home uneaten.
Meeting Other Kindergarten Children
Every time I had a kindergartener, I would call some of the parents of the other KDG kids and set up some play times at the park over the summer before school started. This was a great way for all of our kids to meet some new friends before school started (and for me to meet some new moms).
It is good for your kids to have a few familiar faces on that first day of school. There is nothing worse than coming to a news school and not knowing anyone. If you spend some time with other kindergarten students, then the first day of school is not so lonely.
Our area has a Safety Town that you can enroll your soon-to-be-kindergarten student for some lessons on how to be safe. They review bus safety, calling 911, car seat rules, etc.. with these kids so that they are aware of the world around them. Look around at your community centers, police stations, etc.. to see if there is a class like this. It can't hurt to review all these procedures with your child before school starts.
If your child is riding the bus to school, it is a good measure to review bus safety. Tell them to sit on the bus, do not run up and down the aisles, listen to the bus driver, etc... The schools do bus safety, but usually not before the first day of school.
Also, teach your child their phone number and address. This is just common sense. Also, teach your child your real names (not "mom" and "dad). If they are lost and they do not know your real name (ie: Jane Smith), a police officer cannot help them very well.
Chances are, your child has gone to preschool and kindergarten is not his or her first adventure outside your house. But, if they have not attended some type of pre-K, spend some time with them learning their letters and numbers. While kindergarten starts off with the letter "A", it is helpful if your child knows their letters, numbers, shapes, and colors. Knowing these basic skills helps your child feel less overwhelmed by everything they will have to learn in kindergarten.
Teach them to write their name (first and last). Again, they will learn this is kindergarten, but it is something that at 5 they should be able to do. Teach them to capitalize the first letters of both names and write the rest in lower case. This is very hard to "unteach," so it helps your child to teach them the correct way first.
There are thousands of workbooks available where your child can do a few worksheets a day over the summer to help them learn their numbers and letters. You can use puzzles as well and point out letters everywhere. It does not cost a lot to do these things.
There are thousands of websites out there where you can print out worksheets to help your kids practice all of these skills. Just type in what you are looking for into Google and you will be amazed at what you will find.
Reading to your child is one of the most important things you can ever do to help them. It is easy, it is free, and the results of this action will amaze you.
Read them some stories about kindergarten. There are many books out there about what kindergarten is like, how much you learn, and how much fun it is. The library is a wonderful place to take your child to check out these books for free!!
Even spending just a few minutes before bed reading with them will give them skills that you never thought imaginable. They learn inflection from your voice reading them a story. They learn the nuances of a language when you read to them. They learn beginning, middle, and end while you read to them. They learn moral lessons from stories when you read. They learn how to tell a story. They learn to sit still. They learn to listen. They learn to read.
But, most of all, they learn love. There is nothing greater than having a parent spend time with you. If a child feels loved, then they will have the courage to succeed.
Practice Talking with Adults
At school, they will meet a lot of kids, but they will also meet a lot of adults. Practice saying "hello" with adults. They will have to talk to their teacher and answer their questions. If they can at least practice on other adults before hand, it will make the other adults less intimidating.
Buttons, Zippers, etc....
One teacher cannot help with 30 zippers, buttons, and snaps all at once. Make sure that your kids can tie their shoes, button their pants, zip their zippers, etc... all by themselves. If they cannot, do not put that item on them. Use pull on pants until they can do the snaps on their clothes. If they cannot zip up their sweatshirt, send a pull over one. This will save your child a lot of frustration at the start of school. There are so many other things to worry about, your child should not have to worry about their clothes.
There is a lot for your little one to master at this young age. Sometimes it seems overwhelming. Don't stress over it. Take it one thing at a time. It will all figure itself out in the end!