It seems like just yesterday you were rocking your newborn to sleep and now here they are, off to kindergarten. Whether you are sending your first child or your sixth child off to kindergarten, there are plenty of big feelings and big adjustments that your child, and you, are going through.
At New Canaan Pediatrics, we know that kindergarten is a big transition. While your child may already be used to being away from you all day, kindergarten is not the same environment as preschool, day care or a babysitter. Your child, at five to almost six years old, is also now experiencing a great deal of cognitive and emotional growth.
What’s the big deal about kindergarten?
At kindergarten age, children are learning to self-regulate their emotions and handle situations independently of adult intervention. They are learning how to interact with their peers and form friendships with other children who will likely be with them throughout their academic career.
The week before kindergarten starts is not the time to force book work and run flash card drills. It’s a time to make sure that your child knows how loved and amazing they are so they can walk into school on that first day with all the confidence possible. Part of growing their confidence is making sure they know what to expect and giving them control over as many decisions as possible.
Your medical professionals at New Canaan Pediatrics are here to help both your child and you make the transition to kindergarten smoothly. We have five general tips to make the kindergarten experience happy and healthy.
- Visit the school before the first day
If the school sponsors a “Meet the Teacher” day before the first day of school, be sure to attend with your child. This opportunity often allows parents to bring all needed school supplies to the classroom so children aren’t struggling with an overloaded backpack on the first day. It also allows children to meet their teacher in the company and security of their parents, look around the classroom, ask questions, and feel comfortable. This day is also an opportunity for children to meet their classmates and hopefully recognize a few friendly faces from the neighborhood.
If “Meet the Teacher” day is not available or you are unable to attend, email the principal and the teacher in advance and ask if there is a day that you and your child can have a guided tour of the school and classroom.
- Speak to the teacher directly and privately to discuss concerns.
If you have specific questions or concerns that pertain to your child, it’s best to address those privately. Email your child’s teacher and schedule a call or set up a meeting to discuss your concerns and inform them of any issues your child may be struggling with. Your child’s teacher will be happy to answer your questions and to receive any insight into your child’s personality to help them enjoy a successful school year.
The wrong time to ask these questions is during group or public events. These are hectic times for a teacher, and you will not have their undivided attention.
- Enlist the help of your child getting school supplies together before hand.
School supplies may not be the most exciting thing for parents to look for, but it’s a high priority for kindergarteners. Bring your child with you to the store or ask for their input as you search online for their school supplies. Let them pick out their backpack and lunchbox. Giving your child as much choice as possible gives them confidence and a feeling of control.
- Practice routines as much as possible before school starts.
Getting into a school routine before school starts is helpful to both you and your child. The week before school, practice as much as possible:
- Pack their backpack the night before
- Wake up on time
- Get ready in a timely manner
- Practice the route to the school or bus stop
These rehearsals will help you identify kinks in the schedule, giving you time to adjust before school begins to reduce stress and anxiety.
If your child is eating lunch at school, practice eating lunch out of their lunch boxes. They will need to know how to open everything on their own and how to pack it back up at the end of lunch. Confirm how much time your child will have for lunch and set a timer for that amount of time at home. Make sure your child understands how much time they have to eat to ensure they can focus and self-regulate in the afternoon without the distraction of being hungry.
- Attend Back To School or Curriculum Night
After classes begin, schools often host a “Back to School” or “Curriculum” night for parents to meet other educators your child may interact with throughout the week, such as music, art, or physical education teachers. You may also review the general curriculum that teachers have planned and their expectations of their students. This night is informative and will give you an idea of what your child is experiencing daily. When possible, please attend this important night.
As your child grows, Back to School Night will become even more important. Make attending these events an annual ritual, so teachers understand you are engaged, concerned and involved with your child’s education.
Set Your Child and Yourself Up for Success in Kindergarten
Kindergarten is a big year for your child. They will learn the basics of letters and numbers to form a strong foundation for their academics. They will discover how to be a good friend and form strong relationships outside of family. They will gain independence away from their primary caregivers, a transition that is just as significant for your child as it is for you as a parent. They will discover a lot more about their likes and dislikes, their strengths and their own personalities.
Make sure you are setting your family up for a successful school year with advanced planning and practice. Above all, make sure you spend patient time with your child to build their confidence. That will be the most important “school supply” of all.
Do you have questions about kindergarten readiness? Just message us through your patient portal. At New Canaan, we are happy to help!