The transition to kindergarten can be an exciting time for many children. And yet for others, it can induce feelings of uncertainty, worry and nervousness. Let’s face it, kindergarten is a whole new world to children, even if they already have previous experience in early childhood settings. Everything will be new: the teacher, friends, the classroom, materials, the schedule, routines and the developmental expectations. Below are five ways to support your child through this milestone transition. Hopefully, with consistent practice and follow through, your child will be able to walk into the classroom feeling confident and ready for the new adventures awaiting in kindergarten.
1.) Be available to talk about kindergarten in a matter-of-fact tone. Your child will have many questions about kindergarten. Who is the teacher? When is lunch? Do I get to ride the bus? Is there a bathroom?…and the list goes on and on. Follow their lead with what they are curious about without overwhelming them with too much too soon. Share stories from your childhood but read their reactions and expressions in case too much information starts to increase anxiety and nervousness. Field questions appropriately that you know the answer to and offer ideas to problem solve for those you don’t.
2.) Do your research and visit the school. With the internet at our fingertips we can find out about teachers, lunch schedules, bus routes, and overall general information about kindergarten. Take time to scout out open house dates for when you will able to visit the school and meet your child’s teacher. Visit the school often even if it’s not officially open during the summer. Many times the playgrounds are open to check out and you can start getting familiar with nearby streets and surrounding markers. Take pictures of the building to use as a visual cue at home to remind the child that kindergarten is coming and that is “your school.” Have your child help you keep a list of unanswered questions. This might ease the anxiety of forgetting which questions to inquire about when you have the opportunity to ask someone who might know the answer.
3.) Role play. This is where you and your child can participate in dramatic play to experiment what going to kindergarten might feel like. Pretend to go to bed early and prepare to wake up early for school. Use housekeeping play toys to make lunches and pack backpacks with school supplies. Pretend to drive to school and wait in the drop off line or to wait for the school bus to arrive. The possibilities for open play is endless. Using role play will allow you to see any hidden feelings, anxieties, or questions your child may have about kindergarten. 4.) Supporting independence. The weeks (or better yet months) leading up to kindergarten are a great time to wholeheartedly support and encourage your child’s independence. When they know you have faith in their ability to be a “capable” kindergartner, they will be. Allow them to problem solve opening their own applesauce packets without you starting it for them. Encourage them to take responsibility for putting their lunch in their own backpack if you’re leaving the house for an outing. If your child ignores your rules of an early bedtime, allow them to feel the natural consequence that happens when they wake up feeling cranky. It will feel like growing pains for all, but the bottom line is supporting your child to be a knowledgeable, responsible young student.
5.) Be the model. Be the model for your child that education is key. Be the model that you value going to school and leaning to read, write, and capture wonder. Be the model of stability and routine in your household. Remind them that when this big transition comes you will continue to shower them with love and a predictable routine at home.