Remember when your baby was just a little bundle, unable to do anything for herself, depending on you for everything? It seems like yesterday for me. I can’t believe I’ve just registered this little squishy face for junior kindergarten!
My sweet, chubby infant has grown into a tall, chatty pre-schooler and is eager for the next big step. Although my December baby will be the youngest in her class, she feels ready. As a teacher, I know she’s ready. As a mom, I’m a little less ready. What is it about our kids growing up that causes such a mix of emotions?
Even though parents may never be ready, with a little work before the big day, we can get our kids ready so this time in their lives will be a memorable one. Having taught kindergarten, I have a sense of what kids need (and don't need) to make the transition an easy one. Here are a few things you can start doing now to get your kid kindergarten-ready:
Keep Your Kid Healthy
- Teach proper hand washing: Kids hate things that slow them down when there is a big world to explore and many resist hand washing. Yet, we all know that it's so important in stopping the spread of germs - especially in a room filled with inefficient nose blowers. If you want to minimize the amount of colds your new school-goer brings home, teach your child to wash her hands properly.
- Stick to the immunization schedule: This one might be the most important of all. In order to attend school in Ontario, kids must be immunized against a whole slew of scary diseases. Most vaccines need more than one dose over time to produce full protection, so it’s important to follow the immunization schedule. Vaccinating your child also helps others. The more people who are immunized, the less likely an outbreak will occur. That means if we all do our part, we can decrease the risk that babies, or other people who cannot be immunized for medical reasons, will contract these devastating diseases. Keep your family and your community healthy by sticking to the schedule.
- Book an eye exam: It’s important to know if kids can see properly while they are taking those first steps towards reading. Often, vision problems get mistaken for learning concerns. Take some time for an optometrist visit before your child starts school.
- Following directions: All students need to be able to follow simple directions, so practice at home by setting limits and making requests of your child.
- Dressing themselves: Yep, I know, the fastest way out the door is to zip all the zippers, squish on the mittens, and strap up the boots yourself. However, it is impossible for one teacher to do this for 27 kids who are bursting with excitement over the first snowfall. Teach your pre-schooler how to do these things, then give her time to practice.
- Tidying up after themselves: Show your little one how to put things away and expect her to do it. Work together to make it happen and provide an organized space to keep things.
- Feeding themselves: When I was teaching kindergarten, there were parents who came in every lunch hour to spoon feed their kids. Nope! Unless there is a medical reason, our big boys and girls need to do this for themselves. Sure, it means I forever have bits of rice stuck to my socks, but my sweet girl needs to know how to eat independently. Also, let her practice opening and closing lunch boxes and containers.
- Using the bathroom independently: This one is a little trickier. In my house, we’ve got most of the skills figured out - when to go, how to wipe, pulling up pants, and washing hands.
- Teach social skills: Be sure to introduce your child to the idea of being a good friend, solving conflicts and asking for help. These will be lifelong skills and some kids don’t master them for years. It’s never too early to start practicing. Luckily, I recently gave my daughter a baby sister, so she’s getting a crash course in sharing and kindness!
- Talk about school: Ask your little one how she feels about it. Make sure school is a familiar idea. Tell her what to expect.
By not mentioning academic skills, I’m not downplaying them. Sure, a working knowledge of letters and numbers will definitely give a solid foundation for school to build on. But there is no need to stress about how high she can count or if she can write her name before junior kindergarten. Read to your kids often, provide crayons, scissors, glue and pencils. Help her notice numbers and practice counting as you go about your day. Academic skills will come in time - no drilling required.
And a final tip for parents: Label EVERYTHING! Get your child’s name on their clothes, bags, lunch containers and anything else that can be misplaced or forgotten.
School can be a great place to build community. I’m looking forward to meeting more families in my area with kids the same age as my daughter. And I’m confident that with a little prep work, we can make the big move to kindergarten a happy and healthy transition for all.
This post was developed in association with the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care