Helping your child get ready for kindergarten
The transition to kindergarten is a big change. To help your child be successful in September, help him/her start to develop the skills listed below.
- Help your child learn his/her full name, address and phone number.
- Help your child learn to identify basic colors (red, green, yellow, blue, orange, black, white).
- Help your child learn to count from 1-20. Have your child count groups of objects.
- Help your child to identify the written numerals 1-10.
- Help your child learn to print his/her first name.
- Help your child learn to identify basic shapes (circle, square, triangle).
- Give your child lots of opportunities to color and draw using pencils, crayons and markers.
- Give your child the opportunity to cut things out with a child's scissors. Provide him/her with old magazines, newspapers and cards that have pictures and shapes that can be cut out.
- Help your child learn to dress him/herself. Practice using buttons, zippers, snaps.
- Help your child learn to use the toilet by him/herself.
- Read to your child every day.
- Talk, talk, talk to your child.
- Help your child describe objects (What are they called?, What are they used for?, What color are they?).
- Help your child learn to follow multi-step directions such as "go to your room, put your pajamas on and then go brush your teeth."
- Help your child identify basic feelings (sad, mad, happy, scared).
- Help your child develop the ability to play/work by him/herself for 10-20 minutes.
- Teach your child how to ask for help if it is needed.
- Provide opportunities for your child to play with other children his/her age.
- Make sure you attend enrollment in August! Allow some extra time for your child to have the opportunity to play on the school playground.
Helping your child adjust to kindergarten
Over the summer:
- Talk about kindergarten: Explain to your child what to expect in school. Talk to him/her about the length of the school day, whether they will take lunch or get hot lunch, how they will get to and from school, etc. Be honest when answering your child's questions about school.
- Try to keep other changes to a minimum: Going to kindergarten can be an overwhelming task. Your child may feel exhausted at the end of the school day, especially during the first couple of months. September may not be the time to sign your child up for new activities, get a new pet, etc. Give your child a few months to adjust to going to school everyday.
- Establish consistent routines: Familiar, consistent routines at home are very important for your child. Your child will feel better about things if he/she knows what to expect and when to expect it. The two most important routines are bed time and before school in the morning. An unhurried, calm morning routine will help your child get off to a better start at school each day. Do things the night before like making lunches, packing backpacks and putting out clothes to wear. This will help make mornings go smoother. Rushing around in the morning will only cause stress and add to your child’s anxiety. Also establish a bedtime routine. Have a set bedtime. A kindergarten-age child should be getting 10 to 11 hours of sleep a night. A typical bedtime routine might include changing into pajamas, brushing teeth and being in bed by 8:00 p.m. Once your child is in bed, you can read to him/her and/or turn some quiet music on. Practice and begin these routines before school starts.
- Read books about going to school: This is a great way to expose your child to some of the things they will experience when he/she goes to school. This also allows you to discover and discuss some of the things about school that may cause your child to be anxious. Here is a list of suggested books. These books are available through your public library.
- Be positive about school: If you are apprehensive or negative, your child will notice and will also begin to have those feelings. Be matter-of-fact and treat school entrance as something that everyone does. Do not suggest to your child that he/she has choice about going or not. Be enthusiastic about school! Let your child know you are excited that he/she will be learning new things, making new friends, growing up and becoming more independent. Spend some special one-on-one time with your child doing fun learning activities, like cooking, playing age appropriate card/board games, reading or art/crafts projects. Praise your child and help him/her feel good about him/herself and his/her abilities.
- Encourage independence: Provide your child with positive experiences of being separate from you. If your child is not in daycare or preschool, try to arrange for your child to visit relatives, stay with babysitters or have play dates with other children.
When saying good-bye on those first few mornings, make it quick, light and reassuring. A warm hug, a kiss and a reminder of the after-school routine (i.e. “I will pick you up.” or “You will go to the after-school program and I will pick you up there." or “I will meet you at the bus stop.”) is all that is required. Do not communicate to your child whatever anxiety or separation fears you may feel. Children have been known to feel sad and guilty because leaving made their parents feel sad. It’s fine to tell your child that you will miss him/her, but emphasize how proud and happy you are that he/she is going to school. Acknowledge your own feelings. Many parents feel a temporary sense of loss when their child goes off to school. You may want to plan a special activity for yourself that day.
Even the best prepared child may have difficulty when the moment comes to say goodbye to his or her parent. If your child becomes anxious when saying good-bye try the following:
- Try to get your child involved in an activity and say you will be leaving in a few minutes.
- Be straightforward in explaining that you need to go. Point out some of the activities your child will get to do at school that day and say when you will see him/her again.
- Keep your own feelings in check. Do not become angry or upset; this will only cause more confusion and stress. Instead, remind your child what will happen that day and that the teacher is there to answer questions, help and talk about his/her feelings. Reassure your child that you will return as promised.
- Kiss and hug your child just once before leaving and then leave. Research indicates that the more parents hold and touch children and the less children play before the parent’s departure, the more anxious children are when parents leave.
- Remember: the tears usually quickly stop soon after the parents leave.
Establishing a Bedtime Routine
One of the most difficult and frustrating experiences of parenthood is bedtime. Children seem to develop a second wind, just about the time parents are ready to settle down, put their feet up and relax. Even when you manage to get them to their beds, they are back up asking for water, kisses, bathroom breaks or a “monster” has appeared in their room and you cannot possibly expect them to sleep in there without you. So you say goodbye to your TV show, activity or great book and you again begin the cycle of several trips to the bedroom. Finally, exhausted, you give up and your child slips into bed beside you.
If you recognize yourself in the above paragraph, you are in the company of many parents. The best way to solve bedtime problems is to establish a routine. Establishing a bedtime routine will help your child feel more secure and rested, give you and your spouse some deserved time to relax without children, and generally help the family function more smoothly. Once you establish your routine, you must be consistent. Stick to your plan. Eventually you will train your child to settle down and get the rest a growing child needs.
First of all you must set a bedtime, based on the child’s age and need for rest. Young children need about 10-11 hours of sleep a night. Next, develop a repertoire of soothing activities leading up to bedtime. For example, a routine may include a warm bath followed by reading books. When the children are in bed, provide a small cup of water next to them. Provide soft music for your child to listen to.
When children have developed problems with settling down for bed, parents will need to try some additional techniques. One idea is a sticker chart, which is posted on the refrigerator door. Each morning, following a night of uninterrupted sleep, the child earns a sticker. After the child earns five or ten stickers, he/she may be given a small reward such as special time with a parent. The key to making this work is consistency on the parent’s part. You must be willing to stick to your plan because your child will test you to see if you are serious. It’s hard work, but if you stick to it, some day you will be able to watch a TV show or read a book without interruptions.