As a parent, there are a number of things you can do to help your child prepare for their first day of Kindergarten.
It’s of course important to visit the school, with your child as well as the maximum number of family members as their support team. It shows that you’re positive about their schooling experience and that learning is an important component of their life journey.
In addition to that, I recommend that you help them prepare for the transition by doing some (or ideally, all) of the following things:
- Talk to your child about school (and help them build up positive thoughts and associations about the schooling experience)
- Use your local library with your child; get them used to reading a variety of books and the concept of sharing communal items
- Read books to your child – and talk about what might happen next in stories. Reading to your child is probably the single best investment you can make in their early academic development
- Share many different experiences with them; going out to lots of places and talking about the experiences you are having there
- If you come from a multilingual home, support your child in maintaining their home language while also learning language at the same time
- Provide your child with a variety of play materials to increase their familiarity, including water, mud, sand, paper, pens, pencils, paint and balls
- Encourage your child’s curiosity by asking them questions and expecting them to ask you questions in return
- Encourage your child to ask for help proactively, rather than expecting you to anticipate their needs
- Purchase your child’s lunch box and back pack with them (narrow down the choices and let them choose) and practice using them at home, ensuring your child is confident with opening and closing both
- Give your child small jobs to do around the house e.g. pack toys away, set the table, and sort socks
- Ensure your child has an up-to-date immunization certificate and medical records before the start of the school year
- Take your child for a comprehensive medical checkup before school starts; this examination should include speech, hearing and vision tests, which can flag potential problems that might interfere with learning early on and which, caught early, we can fix or mitigate
- Ensure your child always gets sufficient sleep on a regular pattern; 10 to 12 hours’ sleep per night is recommended for children entering Kindergarten
- Ensure your child eats well-balanced meals, comprising healthy, nutritious, whole foods and little junk. If they get used to eating right before they go to school, they will have no problem eating a healthy lunch when nobody is there to supervise them
- Encourage your child to have a good time away from the home environment. Help your child enjoy a feeling of independence
- Make your child familiar with school through visits, orientation days etc. Talk about what to expect, keeping the conversation as positive as possible
- Encourage contact with a few children who will be in the same kindergarten class, if possible. Familiar faces will be reassuring
- Talk to your child about new experiences. This will help to develop vocabulary
- Encourage self-help skills such as going to the toilet independently, blowing nose, putting on shoes and socks, recognizing their own name in print and memorizing their own address and phone number
- Teach your child about road safety, how to cross the road and where to walk – and of course, never to talk to strangers on the way to or from school.
In addition, the main areas of handwriting and reading are core to the development of children in preparation for school. So there are a range of specific activities you can have your child do to soften their landing into the big school.
- Encourage ‘left to right’ eye movements, by pointing to the pictures and text as you read a story to them. That can be achieved by counting a row of items in a picture, touching each in turn. Use several rows in counting, making sure to move from the end of one row to the beginning of the next.
- Allow lots of free drawing on blank paper, to enable your child to develop a mature pencil grip using a range of markers (pen, pencil, chalk, brushes, glue stick).
- Encourage your child to copy shapes (e.g. circle, square, cross, triangle), using dots as a starting point. Practice drawing the shapes in the air and describe the action for your child to follow.
- Involve your child in coloring activities, gradually moving toward more intricate patterns.
- Let your child see you reading for leisure as much as possible.
- Help your child develop their language abilities by engaging them in a range of conversations.
- Encourage your child’s visual discrimination skills using drawing games, which involve matching pictures or patterns (e.g. snap or dominoes). Draw a letter or a number on a piece of paper and then ask your child to look through books or magazines for the same letter or number. Alternatively, make a pattern with four or five Popsicle sticks and then have your child mimic that pattern with their own.
The key is to expose your child to learning opportunities wherever they go, as well as to ensure you set an example of a life of continuing learning.
Family and Friends:
Don’t feel like as a parent you are solely responsible for 100 per cent of your child’s school readiness. It’s easy to feel that way, but rest assured there is a strong core of people around you who would also like to be involved, and on whom you can rely to provide support. Often, these are people who have been through it all before and understand intrinsically what you can expect.
Who around you comes into contact with your child? Other family members, friends, community members – they all have the ability to offer your child lessons in social skills, language and more.
So take the opportunity, encourage your child to interact with other people they know the same way they interact with you. These conversations familiarize your child with the idea of having conversations with adults who are not their parents, which is a very important skill.
Get your friends to talk to your child about their jobs, their experiences – they will no doubt provide a rich new perspective and possibly new concepts that your child will internalize and learn from.
Encourage them to take part in play; even participation in everyday ’mundane’ activities, like washing the car, gardening or going shopping can be eye-opening, as well as educational, for a child.
If you have friends with children, then of course that’s an additional benefit, too – as well as sharing the burden of constant care, by taking turns with the children you are at once encouraging them to be more social and exposing them to a range of new places and experiences.