Preparing your child for kindergarten and involving him or her in school preparations
In a few months, young students will start kindergarten. This involves a lot of novelties for a child: a new environment, new people, new rules, and a new rhythm.
You can really help your child have a happy and smooth transition by preparing him or her in a variety of ways as a family.
Helping your child to become independent is the most important thing and applies to every day life
Going to the bathroom alone:
- Have your child wear clothes that can be easily removed and put back on. Choose pants with an elastic waistband.
- Teach your child to wipe. It’s not easy, but they should be encouraged to do it.
- Teach your child to wash his or her hands after using the bathroom.
Getting dressed with as little help as possible:
- Choose clothes that are easy and practical to wear, remove and secure (for jackets and coats). This is essential to facilitate autonomy.
- Choose shoes that are easy to put on. Toddlers find laces hard to tie, so choose shoes without laces.
- Encourage your child to dress and undress him/herself in the months before school starts. There are techniques that make it easier for your child, and you will find many of them on the Internet.
Learn how to store and care for your belongings:
- Ask your child to get involved in putting away toys: this is a great way for him or her to learn and develop a sense of responsibility. Toddlers enjoy being involved in the daily tasks of adults. It makes them feel “grown up” and helps them develop a healthy sense of self-confidence.
- Make it a game or a ritual, as it will be more easily accepted by the child.
- Be realistic in your requests, because if the child feels that the task you are asking is too difficult for them, they may not want to cooperate. If tidying up is difficult, offer choices that engage him or her in the process. For example: will you put away your blocks, or your cars?
- Together, choose what he or she will bring to school: a new lunch box? A new bag? This will also be an opportunity to hear his or her thoughts on the new school year.
Practice managing a lunchbox:
- Summer is the perfect time to have picnics in the yard or at the park to show your child how to pack a lunch.
- Choose a lunch box together ―again, one that is easy to open and close― and fill it with healthy foods your child likes.
Learn to ask clearly and politely when they need help:
- It is important for the child’s safety and well-being to be able to express clearly in words what he or she needs. This may be about asking to go to the bathroom, expressing discomfort, grief, or physical pain.
- Sometimes emotion can override speech, but the teacher will be more effective if he or she quickly understands the help that is being requested. Encourage your child to use precise words and clear sentences when asking, rather than anticipating his or her needs.
- You probably know your child so well that you know what he or she wants or needs without hearing it verbally. Encouraging your child to do so a few months before the start of the school year will be a great help, as he or she will then be in the habit of clearly expressing what he or she needs.
The pandemic has kept children away from their friends in recent months, reducing opportunities to learn to get along with others. Fortunately, social skills are also developed within the family. Knowing how to wait your turn, collaborate and share makes school life easier.
There are many examples:
- Invite the child to speak at dinner, ask him or her to explain the good moments of his or her day. This allows the child to speak in front of other people and express ideas.
- Create moments of dialogue, teach him or her to respect others’ turn to speak and to wait their turn before speaking.
- Play board games as a family. Your child will be able to practice the principle of taking turns in a playful way.
- Involve your child in tasks that will empower him or her, where he or she will learn to collaborate. For example, ask for help folding laundry, making lunch, setting the table, watering the plants, or getting clothes ready for the next day.
- Encourage your child to talk about his or her emotions, to be clear about what he or she likes, dislikes, wants or doesn’t want. This will help him or her in his relationships with his peers, where he or she will be able to be expressive and grow.
COVID or not, parents can continue to remind their child of applicable health guidelines for school in 2021: cough into the elbow, wash hands often, perhaps stand six feet away from others, and don’t hug friends.
It’s also a good idea to make the mask more familiar by letting your child play with a mask and getting him or her used to seeing you wearing one, for example when you go out shopping.
There is no need to overdo it though. The school will send you the rules in place before school starts and teachers will explain the school rules to the students during the first days of school. They are trained to make it fun― for example using handwashing songs as well as dances or games to learn to respect the six-foot distance, if it is still in effect.
Stress and Fear
Pandemic or not, starting kindergarten is a stressful event for parents and children:
- The calmer the parents are, the easier it is for the child to adapt. Toddlers are very adaptable. This is much truer for children than for adults. They adapt more easily to change and to a new environment, sometimes in only a few weeks.
- Talk about your worries with other adults, not in front of your child, to avoid conveying stress.
- Talk with your child about his or her fears, if any. This will allow you to be reassuring.
- Is your child afraid of not having any friends? Encourage your child to observe the students in his or her class and find out which students like the same games. You can also advise him or her to ask one child at a time to play. This is easier than approaching a group.
- Is he or she afraid of a new teacher? Your child may be uncomfortable with the teacher because he or she doesn’t know him or her yet. Your child may feel embarrassed to ask for help or to raise his or her hand if he or she doesn’t understand something. Explain that the teacher will be happy to answer their questions and that it is part of a teacher’s job to help your child.
- Is he or she afraid of getting lost? The school is a new setting for your child. It’s bigger than a daycare, and there are a lot of people he or she doesn’t know. It is normal for your child to fear getting lost inside. Reassure him or her : any adult in the school will help if asked. No matter the position or role, every adult will be able to help your child find his or her class.
Good preparation to counter stress: be informed, be positive
- The messages the child receives about school should be positive. For example, tell him or her that you are proud to see him or her grow up, which demonstrates that starting school is a happy and positive experience.
- It is common for schools to organize visits to the kindergarten for children and parents, in order to help toddlers get familiar with the classroom and the teacher. However, because of the pandemic and uncertainties about containment measures, transitional activities usually implemented by schools may not be available.
- Nevertheless, to reduce the unknown and avoid stress, you can take your child to see the school and its yard several times over the summer. This is also an opportunity to talk about school and answer questions.
- Some schools are working on creating videos or photo handouts to introduce children to their class, teacher and school before school starts. Most often, documents are sent to parents explaining the day’s routine as well. Talk to your child about what to expect on a typical day at school.
- It can also be a good idea to find books or resources that talk about school or kindergarten specifically.
- Many sites suggest books, including:
Videos on the IDELLO website show children in the classroom and explain what is being done there!