There are so many things to think about when preparing for your child’s first day in kindergarten. Here are some tips on questions to ask, reading, social and personal readiness, and finding teachable moments with your child.
Kindergarten is a fun and exciting experience for you and your child. He gets to feel BIG for the first time. She gets to ride the school bus. There's a flurry of joyous preparation including the thrill of the first backpack and the anticipation of getting to have homework for the first time. Whether you’re the type that wants to hold onto your baby forever or the type that’s pushing him out the door, it’s inevitable. Kindergarten happens. Here are some tips to prepare the way.
Ask the Right Questions
Do a little legwork to make the entry easier for your family and your child. Let the school and teacher know if your child has special needs, such as medication. If your religion prohibits your child’s participation in something, be up-front about it. Some questions you need to ask the school are:
Where can I find a school calendar?
Do kindergartners get report cards?
What grading system do you use?
Is there any testing for kindergartners? What type, and when is it administered?
How does busing work?
Then move on to your child’s teacher. Some questions to ask are:
What supplies will my child need? Should everything be labeled with his/her name?
How will I know when something (such as pencils) needs replenishing?
Do you need volunteers? How can I be involved?
Are there field trips? If I volunteer to go, can I bring a younger sibling?
How is lunch handled?
Is there snack time? Rest time?
If my child misses a day, is there make-up work?
How are birthdays celebrated?
What methods of discipline do you use?
What is your preferred method of communication? Notes? Phone calls? Email?
Reading and Writing Readiness
Kindergarten students run the gamut from not recognizing letters to full readers. In all likelihood, your child falls in the middle somewhere. There is no question that your child will be more successful if he or she is already reading, but don’t panic if that’s not the case. Here are a few things you can work on with your child:
Practice writing his name, and make sure he knows his full name (first, middle, and last). You’d be surprised how many kids don’t!
Learn the alphabet, including the sounds each letter makes.
Practice phonetic (sound-it-out) writing. (Don’t worry about spelling, that comes later.)
Practice fine motor skills by using pencils, crayons ,chalk, markers, or whatever you have handy to draw pictures or write.
Learn the names of basic shapes and colors.
Practice counting to 20.
Retell stories including the beginning, middle, and end.
The most invaluable preparation you can do is to begin (or continue) to read together EVERY DAY as part of your routine.
Today’s K teachers say their biggest obstacle in teaching is classroom management. Behavior, in other words, is tough. If your child is not ready socially, you might even want to consider putting kindergarten off for another year. It’s that important. Here are some ways to help your child prepare to be a successful member of a class:
Spend some time observing your child in a group setting. Can she initiate play? Sustain play? Be a contributing member of a team? Now’s the time to teach basics about getting along with others, sharing, working as a team if those lessons haven’t already been learned. And set a good example by minding your manners too!
Encourage your child to ask questions.
Help him learn to advocate for himself. For example, if he’s cold, will he speak up? If she needs a drink of water, will she ask for one? Children need to be able to ask for help when they need it.
Practice following two- or three-step directions.
Make your child mind you. If he won’t, set consequences and follow through immediately. This sets the child up for understanding about behaving for the teacher.
Before school starts, discuss behavior with your child. Be specific about what you expect. Decide ahead of time if there will be consequences at home for getting in trouble at school.
Play school. In doing so, you can practice sitting at a desk, raising your hands, asking permission, keeping things neat, etc.
Personal Readiness (Or, What to Wear):
Think carefully about how you dress your child for school. Of course you want your child to look cute and stylish, but there are a few considerations that supercede style:
Can she go to the bathroom without help in those clothes? For instance, overalls can be very difficult to get on and off, or a little girl not used to a dress might drop it in the toilet. This can be very upsetting to a child, but is easily avoided.
Can he tie those shoes? Tying can be difficult to master. It is something to work on throughout the kindergarten year, but in the meantime, save the teacher from having to do it all day long and buy velcro.
Will your child be comfortable playing? There will probably be recess time. If your child raises her arms way up to climb up the monkey bars, is half her belly showing? Do his pants fall down? Can she do a cartwheel without flashing the rest of her class?
Consider a light jacket. Even in the hot months, a classroom can be cold. But be sure to clearly label the inside of the jacket with your child’s name. Kids are notorious for leaving their things all over the place.
Make School Important
Show your child that school is a priority for your family. Here are some ways you can teach your child the importance of education:
Always arrive on time in the morning.
Volunteer; even if it’s only a few times, your child will love having you there.
Join the PTA.
Attend parent/teacher conferences.
Check her backpack each night for homework or notes from the teacher.
Finally, find teachable moments outside of school. This means that if your child is interested in a billboard, read it together. If he seems interested in cooking with you, let him help you measure and read the list of ingredients. If she’s got a piggy bank full of money, count it out together. Spark interest in learning by being excited for your child when these moments happen. And enjoy kindergarten. It’s coming, but it’ll be gone before you know it.