Have a child heading off to kindergarten this fall? You can begin preparing right now for this big step
Do you have a child going into kindergarten? Well, it’s almost time to send that little one out to school. Even if your child has attended preschool or other early learning program, this is a major milestone. It is not too early to start planning ahead for August.
Chambanamoms thanks Read.Talk.Play.Every Day! with United Way of Champaign County for presenting this list.
Read. Talk. Play. Every Day! is a community-wide initiative to provide preschool-aged children (0-5) and their families with opportunities and resources for reading, talking, and playing, every day so they can enter kindergarten ready for success. Here, you’ll find resources and tools to help engage your child in the three key areas each day. Reading, talking, and playing are essential skills that young children should practice every day – and you are their best teacher!
Here’s a few (veteran mom and school therapist) tips on getting your child ready for kindergarten in the last few months before school starts. These tips are focused on some practical stuff to make sure your child is successful in those first few weeks with just the basics — getting up on time, knowing the morning routine and being able to eat lunch quickly.
Tip 1: Go to the library. Find some books about kindergarten and going to school; tell your child about your own memories of kindergarten. It doesn’t hurt to read a few books about the first day of kindergarten, even if they are silly or sad. Perhaps they might evoke some thoughts and feelings and be a jumping off point for discussion. And remind your child that you were once in kindergarten, too. Reassurance from parents goes a long way.
Tip 2: Drive by your assigned school. Once your kindergarten assignment is in hand, make it a part of your weekly drive. Point out the building, look at the playground, talk about what happens at school. Most buildings have summer hours so ask for a tour. Just make sure to explain to your kiddo in advance what’s happening. Often it might be the principal who is working in the school, which can be a good opportunity to meet him or her.
Tip 3: Make sure you know your morning routine. Figure out how much time you need in the morning for various tasks and develop a schedule, including: picking out clothes (or will that be done the night before?); dressing; grooming (brushing teeth and hair, among other things); getting a lunch together (if bringing from home); putting the backpack together; making and eating breakfast; and transportation time. Don’t forget to include departure. We aren’t saying that you have to do this each day of the summer, but pick days here and there where you practice what it is like to get up and ready in time for a special event.
Tip 4: Practice eating lunch with your child in 20 minutes or less. Many schools have very short lunch periods, even for kindergarteners. Find out how long your child has for eating lunch, and then set a timer when your child eats. For some kids, this isn’t a problem. Others might struggle. Of course, it’s hard to simulate the hustle and bustle of the school lunch room, but this is more about time than anything else. This can help to prevent “hangry” kindergarteners in late afternoons.
Tip 5: Practice self-help skills. If you send a cold lunch with your student, make sure your child can open everything you plan to put in the lunch – including items such as yogurt tubes, sandwich bags, and reusable containers – without help from a grown-up. While many children still ask for help opening containers in kindergarten and even first grade, it can allow children to have more time to eat their lunch without waiting for a grown-up to come help them. Practice washing and drying hands, covering sneezes with elbows, putting on a jacket, slipping on shoes, etc.
Tip 6: Read, read, read, and read some more. The more words that children hear, the stronger their vocabulary becomes and the more they are able to use those skills to understand the world around them. Children that are read to develop language and understanding much more than those who do not hear engaging dialogue and conversation. Point out letters and words to your children as you drive around town. Environmental print — such as signs, labels and pictures — are important to your child’s development because they are usually highly motivating to our children.
Tip 7: Take advantage of any back-to-school activities your school offers, ahead of the first day. Some schools have open houses or back-to-school nights before the first day. Others have socials. If you don’t know, call the building office. This can vary building by building, even in the same district. Make this a priority. The excitement of the start of the school year is one that cannot be duplicated. Your child might meet peers who are having the same reservations that they are having, and this can help when they walk into school on the first day.
Tip 8: If there aren’t any back-to-school activities planned, make your own. Plan a casual playdate at the school playground. Just set a time and pass the word to other kindergarten parents, who may know other parents they can invite. If you don’t know anyone, contact the building administrators and ask if there is any way they can help contact parents. Host a playdate with same-aged peers over the summer and provide opportunities for socialization and play before the big day.
Tip 9: It is never too early to teach your child about schedules; even if they can’t read yet – use symbols! Post the schedule where everyone in the family can see it – and in view of a digital clock, if your child can read one. We all like to know what is coming next, so show your child through pictures or words what to expect each day during the summer. Is it a day for camp? Grandparents visiting? Going to the pool? Going to daycare? Chances are your child will enjoy knowing how they will be spending their summer days. It also helps to learn the schedule of what a school day might look like. Our older children still enjoy looking at the week ahead and knowing what is coming up.
Tip 10: Adjust their screen time and bedtime. Summers are meant to be laid back and fun, but don’t wait until the first week of August to start adjusting the amount of time that your child watches a tablet, phone, or smart device or goes to bed. Many children can have a hard time starting school and losing the quick stimulation that comes from screens or devices. Play board games, color, walk around the neighborhood, or ride bikes in order to get fine and gross motor skill development. Start easing your child back into a “school” bedtime. Figure out what time they need to be awake, and work backwards on what bedtime will work. Start moving back the bedtime at least five minutes every night. Depending on your schedule this summer, you might to need to start sooner than later! (This goes for all kids, not just kindergarteners.)