My “big girl” is starting school next week. We have gone to her school and met some of the teachers, the principal, and done a little tour. Despite being told multiple times we were just there to finalize paperwork, she insisted on packing her backpack, bringing a snack, and was disappointed when we left her school after a half hour. While my sweet, eager little girl is only attending preschool for the first time, it got me thinking of how actual school isn’t that far off. Her planning, declarations to neighbourhood kids that “I’m going to a new school!” and requests to be at school before it starts has our whole family excited. The person especially proud? My recently retired, elementary school principal mom. “The secretaries used to joke that I could sense a kindergarten registration from a mile away because I’d jump out of my office to greet them.” Though our little girl is not starting elementary school yet (her preschool is in an elementary school), I wanted to ask my mom, who has nearly 40 years of experience, what she recommends parents do to make their child’s transition into kindergarten as smooth and successful as possible.
Here are important Dos and Don’ts for a smooth and successful transition into kindergarten from a principal (and mom)!
What to do for A Successful Start To Kindergarten
In the last week or so leading up to the first day of school, DO establish and maintain a regular routine in your household. School is a big change and predictability will help your child feel secure leading up to such a big milestone.
DO tour the school with your child and take pictures. Once home, you can create a short story or simply refer back to them and explain which one is the classroom, point out where certain things are (i.e. the bathroom, the kitchen centre, the tables where they will eat their snack, the cloakroom, etc.).
DO instill in your child a sense of identity. Their full name, age, who their mommy and daddy are, who their siblings are are all examples of things that they may be asked or may help them feel a sense of who they are when meeting so many new people at once.
When prepping your child for school, DO work with their strengths and interests and DON’T work on skills they aren’t interested in. Specifically, if your child struggles with writing their name, leave it. It will come in time in the classroom. Both literacy and numeracy are developed in early childhood through play. Research shows children’s rudimentary math skills are more advanced in the context of play, their vocabulary is richer, and their fine motor skills are more advanced. So, if your child does not want to print her name but loves art, find fun ways to work on her fine motor skills through using play dough or crafting. But drop working on their name. If your child doesn’t have his numbers down, but is eager to kick a ball, keep score as your play! Not only will focusing on a skill that isn’t going well frustrate you both, it also won’t be particularly effective. Decontextualizing learning (i.e. worksheets and printing) is not an effectual strategy in early childhood and likely won’t be consistent with how they are taught once school starts.
DO be honest about any concerns you may have about your child’s health, developmental milestones, or learning with both the school principal and your child’s teacher. While you may want to minimize your child’s struggles so that he or she can make the best impression possible, being upfront sets your child and the school up for success. If your child has any developmental or health concerns the school will work to ensure the best possible environment for child’s individualized needs and will minimize any guesswork.
Once school has started, DON’T linger too long before leaving and DON’T just drop in to say hi. In the case of the former, you’re delaying the inevitable and also prolonging their anticipation of you leaving. In terms of popping in, it may seem like a nice idea. However, your child, who may be transitioning into their day quite well, suddenly is reminded of your previous absence.
DO volunteer when you can and become involved in the school community. This builds up relationships in the school and generates a greater sense of community for both you and your child.
DO keep a regular and ongoing dialogue with the school principal and your child’s teacher. This helps keep everyone on the same page and fosters feelings of connectedness and involvement.
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