By Guest Blogger Kelly Sipe
School will be here before we know it! If you have a rising Kindergartener, we hope today’s post will be beneficial to you. Written by a local teacher, these tips are ones you will want to keep in your back pocket. Feel free to add questions or comments at the end of the blog today. ~Rachel
1) Bedtime and Morning Routines
I enjoy the easy, flexible schedule that summer allows so much so that I think the most difficult thing for me, as an adult, is succumbing to the fact that it is best to start following a school day regime as early as 2-3 weeks before school begins. A few weeks before school is slated to begin, start following what a typical school day schedule will look like. Dinners should occur earlier, rather than later in the day. Start moving your child’s bedtime closer to the school schedule in 20 minute increments until they are heading to bed at the same time they will go to bed on a school day. Aside from the earlier bedtime, gearing up for the morning routine is the most important element in getting ready for a school day! Start waking your children up at the time they would go to school and get out the door to complete errands, hit the gym, visit the pool or even just to go to a friend or grandparent’s house. If you work outside of the home, ask your sitter to follow this school day routine. Nothing shocks the system more than the school morning rush! If you start preparing your system for this early on, it will be one less transition that you and your children will have to make come the first days of school.
Packed lunches in my house is a four letter word. One, because my child is a picky eater and two, because I have been spoiled by her current school that provides daily lunch and snacks. As a teacher, eating a brown bag lunch myself each day gets old pretty quickly! Get creative! Your child may delight in fun dipping options, cute sandwich cut outs, shapely fruits and veggies – all of which would make opening a lunch box an anticipated surprise each day. Get your child interested and invested in making their lunch. Take them shopping to pick out the best Elsa or Ninja Turtle lunchbox at Target. If your child doesn’t like food items to touch or if you would like to pack a sustainable lunch, try a Bento box. The night before let your child help make some choices of what to pack for the following day.
Lunchbox notes are a great way to connect with your child during the day. As a teacher, I can’t tell you how many smiles I’ve witnessed when children find notes or pictures from a family member hidden inside their lunch box. (Check out Pinterest and www.sayplease.com for lunchbox note ideas.)
Keep in mind that in kindergarten, class sizes are larger and it may take the adult in the room a few minutes longer to get to your child’s table. Therefore, it will be helpful if your child can open food packages and containers independently.
3) Friends – new and old
As soon as you find out who will starting kindergarten at your child’s school, arrange a few summer play dates. This will allow your child (and yourself) to make connections prior to the start of school. Seeing familiar faces on that first day of school can make all the difference for some children. Meeting other families also provides parents with a network of acquaintances to reach out to during the school year.
Although your child will soon develop new school friendships, it will be important that he/she maintains a connection with their ‘old’ friends as well. Research tells us that the more different groupings of friends (church, neighborhood, preschool, etc.) your child has, the better. If ever trouble waters appear in school, for example, there will be other social circles your child could lean on. This will allow for your child to feel continued success, support and joy with peers.
I love new school supplies, as do my children! Check with your child’s school to see whether or not there is a supply list that you are responsible for purchasing. Backpacks should be large enough to fit a 9×12 folder (typically the size of homework, take-home and reading folders) and a lunch box but small enough that your child can comfortably walk with it on his back. Before purchasing a backpack with wheels, be sure to research where your child’s items will be stored during the day. Some school cubbies are not large enough to accommodate backpacks with wheels.
Depending on your child, you may also want to consider keeping a change of clothes (or at least a change of underwear) in their backpack.
5) Rituals and Traditions
Aside from the trendy “First Day of Kindergarten” Facebook post that is seemingly obligatory these days, don’t let the transition to big school happen without creating some memorable and fun school traditions. Rituals should be easy to do and enjoyable for all. Keeping those two things in mind will ensure that the ritual will sustain.
A few rituals/traditions to try:
- Five quiet minutes with mom or dad to snuggle, talk or read a story before the morning rush out the door begins. Having those few calm, quiet moments have the power to set the tone for the rest of the day.
- Create a family handshake or goodbye rhyme as your child exits the car at school.
- At the dinner table discuss everyone’s HIGHs and LOWs of the day.
- At bedtime, reflect on the day and decide on a special moment/memory that you want to take to dreamland with you (or name an experience from the day that you are grateful for – what made you happy today?). Parents should participate in this too. Children love hearing about our days and they benefit from the modeling that this conversation provides.
- Ask your child to choose one thing they learned in school that they can teach you to do. (The day that my daughter came home and told me she learned how to do the monkey bars was a challenging afternoon for me, as she tried to teach me. :))
Sunday evenings can be particularly rushed as the adults realize that the weekend is over and Monday is just around the corner. Find a Sunday evening routine or activity that helps to rightfully reclaim that time to the weekend and doesn’t rush it into Monday. In addition to getting prepared for the next day (and the week ahead) create a space late on Sundays to enjoy and relax into the end of the weekend.
6) Its Not Just About the ABCs
Over the years, there’s been much anxiety over the academic readiness that is needed for kindergarten. It’s wonderful if your child knows all of his letters and sounds. It’s amazing if they are reading already. It is also great if your child does not know all of her letters and sounds yet. The things that make a child most successful in transitioning into kindergarten are:
- Oral language development (Can they articulate their feelings and express themselves?)
- Social-emotional readiness and self-regulation skills (Can they wait their turn? Can they manage strong feelings?)
- Phonemic Awareness (Can they recognize rhyming words? Can they tell if noises (sounds) sound similar and/or different?)
- Multi-step directions (Can they follow multi-step auditory directions? Memory games, Follow the Leader, Sequence)
- Tracking and Counting (Point to the words in a story as you read to them. Play board games, Play games with dice.)
- Self-help skills (Can your child manage his/her bathroom needs? Can your child open food packages? Can they dress themselves?)
- Vocabulary development (Reading to your child. Ask your child questions. Have conversations about experiences that you have together.)
- Fine and gross motor skill development (Can they hop on one foot and balance? Can your child pick up small manipulatives with a pincher grasp? What does their pencil grip look like? Do they demonstrate core and upper body strength and coordination? Do they seem in control of their body/limbs?)
7) Calendar Math
Keep a calendar! Create a countdown to kindergarten! Point out the days of the week. Track family birthdays and the dates that are important to your child. Keeping a calendar with your child will help them to learn the passing of time, in addition to learning number recognition, counting, and more! Use vocabulary and terms such as yesterday, tomorrow, two days from now, the weekend, during the week, etc. all the while visually seeing what those words mean on a calendar.
8) All About Me
In order to fully appreciate the individuality of others, one must embrace the uniqueness in themselves. Typically in kindergarten a beginning of the year theme is All About Me. Start the dialogue with your child about what he enjoys doing, what he is interested in, his favorite things, and his not-so-favorite things. Feel free to do this activity as a family so that your child will begin to notice that different people have different interests and likes (and, at times, different feelings about the same thing). Developing perspective is an invaluable trait and will serve your child well in adolescence and in life.
As your child enters into a new school community, they may find a greater diversity than what they encountered in their preschool setting. All families are different. Talk about the things that your family likes to do. What defines your family? What is important to you? What does your family value? If children have a strong sense of who they are then it isn’t as unsettling when/if they encounter someone with a differing perspective or situation.
9) Kindergarten Isn’t Just About the Kids
This is a big day for parents, as well as for the budding kindergartner! Find time to volunteer in the classroom or at your child’s school. Host a Parent’s Night Out so that you can get to know other families. Build family relationships. As your child grows and develops new friendships, it is always easier to drop a child off for a playdate if you have gotten to know the family prior to the date.
If you have a special talent, interest or profession, let your child’s teacher know! Share it with the class.
Set up a beginning of the year conference with your child’s teacher. Parent-teacher relationships are important. An early in the year conference allows parents to share important information with the teacher about your child and your family.
10) The Lazy Days of Summer
Enjoy the last, lingering days of summer and play, play, play. Allow time for the good, old-fashioned, unstructured, ‘playing with dirt and sticks’ kind of imaginative play. It is through such play that children explore and learn about the world around them. They learn to navigate social situations; learn to negotiate, compromise and share. Children process all that they are learning through play. It is in this essential, natural activity that children make sense of their world and the new knowledge that they are acquiring.
Once the school year begins, it typically unfolds rather quickly. Kindergarten is a wonderful and sometimes crazy journey (and I say that with an ever-so-appreciative smile). It takes a full 6 weeks for children to acclimate to new routines and expectations, in addition to the great learning that is occurring. Some children start of smiling and happy and then hit a bump in the road three weeks in when they realize, “Wow, I have to do this every day?” Others, start off hesitantly and it takes them 3 weeks to fully engage and jump in. Whichever scenario encapsulates your child’s beginning of the year experience, know that it is a unique journey. Any bumps in the road are usually just that.
Breathe in, exhale and announce to the world – “Kindergarten Here We Come!”
Wishing you a year of happy school days.