My mother is a 20 + year veteran kindergarten teacher and is also working towards a doctorate in education (focusing on kindergarten readiness). Since my son will be going to kindergarten in a year, we’ve have many conversations about kindergarten readiness. It’s useful to hear the teacher’s thoughts on what a child needs when entering the classroom. Here are her personal tips for parents and children when preparing for kindergarten:
1. TRANSITION: Be prepared for a rocky transition. Regardless of a child’s previous history in preschool, daycare, or at home, the transition to a full day of school (some kindergartens are half day) and a new structure can be challenging for many children. Give your child time to adjust to all of the social and academic changes. Parents often make swift decisions based on a rocky start, and many teachers recommend that you prepare for a transition time.
2. CELEBRATE: Enjoy (seemingly) small victories. Parents and adults tend to focus on large goals and gains because it’s easy to forget how small some challenges can be for children. If your child is working on writing his or her name, it may seem like a long time to get it “right” in an adult’s eyes. My mother recommends that parents celebrate the small victories and gains children make, even if it is getting one letter correct or finding out one sight word. The encouragement can go a long way for a child, giving them emotional confidence for future challenges.
3. COMMUNICATE: Keep an open line of communication with your child’s teacher. It’s important to introduce yourself and be available (it’s helpful for teachers when parents give the best way to communicate: text, email, phone, etc.) Check homework/folders sent home each night because there’s often notes to parents in those folders. If a teacher/administrator is not available to the parents or unwilling to communicate, that’s an indicator to a parent that they need to talk to the school and be sure that the school is communicating to them, as well.
4. SUPPORT: Help support the teacher in his/her endeavors. Teachers and parents need to work together to be successful, and it’s hard for a parent to trust a teacher, especially when it’s their child’s first year of independent school. (Obviously, there are situations when a teacher is perhaps not acting in the best interest of the child, and that’s when a parent can and should step in to be the advocate for any change that may be necessary).
5.SELF-SUFFICIENT: Work on basic independent tasks with your child. In a classroom, many teachers don’t have time to help with little tasks, so it can contribute to a rocky transition when a child is struggling. To help ease your child into the daily structure, work on some of these tasks: going to the bathroom, pulling up pants.shorts, etc, tying shoelaces (or close to it), opening juice box, handling backpack/lunchbox, opening glue/crayon boxes, washing hands, and using zippers.
6. REST: Depending on the kinder, naps are a part of the daily routine. However, more often, therer is only a quiet time. Find out the normal nap policy and prepare your child for nap or quiet time. Be sure that your child sleeps well at night; often, children need even more sleep to handle the day of school.
7. KNOW: Work with your child on knowing his or her basic information like, full name, address, age, and phone number. Even if your child may not have it memorized, be sure to keep this information handy for the teacher and the child. Also, go over with your child his or her pick up situation (car rider, bus, etc.) There can be much confusion at the end of the day, especially the first few weeks of school, so have your child prepared for who and how they’ll be pick up from school
8. HELPFUL TO KNOW: Each school, teacher, and program has its own set of standards as to what a child should know when he or she arrives. Be sure to talk to the teacher to understand what his or her standards are. All of these are useful for a child to know; however, my mother and other teachers emphasize that if a child can’t do these tasks, it doesn’t mean they are NOT ready for kindergarten. So, useful, but many times not a requirement or indicator of readiness. Work with your child on how to: Hold a pencil, Write his or her name, recognize and say numbers & letters, recognize sight words
9. FOOD: Get to know your child’s snack and lunch schedule. If there is a snack time, be sure to have an appropriate snack (fruit, granola bars, crackers) and a lunch that your child will eat (or money for school lunch). It’s a good idea for a child to use his or her lunchbox before school starts, so he or she can easily navigate it. Also, if your child has allergies, make the teacher and school well aware, but also prepare the child for understanding his or her own food choices.
10. YOUR CHILD: At the end of the day, it’s your child and you are their biggest advocate. As my mother has researched and learned from the kindergarten classroom, every child is an individual with individual needs. Many children develop and learn at their own pace. Good teachers recognize individuality and work hard to do the best for each child. Always make the decisions which are best for your own child!
Hopefully, these are just a few veteran tips to help you and your child prepare for kindergarten. Leave any good ideas or suggestions for us in the comments!
Also, I’ve included an example supply list. Each school and teacher has specific lists, but this one below is fairly typical of what you’ll be expected to purchase for the class. My recommendation is to slowly stock up over the summer, and I’ve added a few links from Amazon (affiliate links) as I found the supplies. I personally love Amazon Prime, even for school supplies because it becomes a child-free shopping trip!