Starting kindergarten is a huge milestone in the life of a child, and one that most parents spend years preparing for. While academic preparation for kindergarten is important, there are many practical issues to consider that can help make the back-to-school transition easier for your child and your child’s new kindergarten teacher. We asked experienced kindergarten teachers and early childhood education experts what they really wish parents would do to prepare their children for kindergarten.
Teach Last Name Recognition
Most kinde rgarteners know how to spell their first name, but the last name is often neglected. Jill Lauren, a learning specialist and author, recommends that parents teach children to at least recognize their last name to avoid confusion if there are other children in the classroom with the same last name. Cubbies, desks, and other supplies are likely to be labeled with your child’s first and last name so a child starting kindergarten with the ability to visually recognize his last name, even if he can’t spell it yet, will avoid unnecessary frustration.
Teach Personal Information
Kindergarten may be one of the first experiences a child has being away from home for an extended period of time. Dawn Cannon encourages parents to help children memorize their personal information, such as full name, address, and phone number, before starting kindergarten. Having personal information memorized can help a child’s first few days of school go smoother as he finds his way around the school and determines where he needs to be, but it is also essential in the event of an emergency.
Establish an After School Meeting Place
Be sure that children not only know their address, but understand how they are getting home at the end of the day. If children will be traveling home by bus, make sure they know where to go to get on the bus. If you will be picking your child up from school, set a clear meeting place so he knows where to go. Be sure your child knows who to go to if he needs help and can’t find you after school is over.
Label Personal Belongings
Back-to-school shopping is an expensive task. Julie Rebboah, a former kindergarten teacher and author recommends that parents protect their investment by labeling all personal items, including backpacks, school supplies, and jackets. Be sure and label personal items in something that won’t come off such as a permanent marker or labels from Mabel’s Labels.
Kindergarten teachers are outnumbered and basic tasks, such as helping children tie their shoes, take up a huge amount of classroom time. Ellen R. Delap, a former kindergarten teacher and professional organizer, suggests that parents either teach children to tie their own shoes before starting kindergarten or send children to school in shoes that do not require tying, such as velcro.
The classroom environment requires cooperation for the school day to go smoothly and create an atmosphere that is conducive to learning. Abigail Norfleed James, PhD, a highly experienced classroom teacher and internationally-recognized expert in gender-based learning, encourages parents to start teaching responsibility early. She says, “The child who has responsibilities feels like s/he matters to the rest of the world.”
Teach Your Child Independence in the Bathroom
Kindergarten teachers are unable to help students with their bathroom needs, both because of legal and logistical reasons, so it is important that children know how to take care of their own personal needs before starting kindergarten. Christin Ditchfield, author and educator, recommends that parents send kindergarteners to school in clothing that is easy for them to take on and off without help to prevent embarrassing accidents.
Teach Personal Hygiene
A kindergarten classroom is prime territory for spreading germs, especially as we move into cold and flu season. Teach children to wash their hands well after going to the bathroom and before eating. Germs are often spread when children touch their eyes, nose, and mouth. Before kindergarten starts, work with your child to practice keeping his hands away from his face and do your best to get rid of any nose picking issues once and for all.
Buy a Kindergarten Sized Backpack
Most backpacks are simply too large for a tiny kindergartener to carry comfortably. Mollie Menton, a former Kindergarten teacher who now serves as an Education Specialist for Educational First Steps, recommends that parents be sure their child can carry their own backpack before starting kindergarten. Look for backpacks that are slightly smaller than a standard sized backpack and have padded straps that are easy on small shoulders.
Teach Social Skills
Academics are a vital part of the kindergarten experience but kindergarten lesson plans can be stalled if children in the class do not have the social skills necessary for a classroom environment. Laura Olson, vice President of education for Kiddie Academy, says, “Children should understand that they are expected to behave in a certain way. This includes taking turns, waiting in line, following the classroom and school rules.”
What tips do you have for getting a child ready for kindergarten?
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