Saturday, August 7, 2010

Transitioning to Kindergarten

One of my nephews is starting kindergarten in the next few weeks. I can't believe how fast children grow! :) At our last family dinner my sister-in-law was asking me about tips to help make the transition to kindergarten a fun, non-stressful one. We had a nice conversation and I have even thought of a couple more things (like some fun books) since then. I have not sent a child of my own off to kindergarten yet, but I did teach school for a couple years and I would like to share some tips I learned from my experience, from other wise experienced teachers, and from parents. While this post will focus mainly on transitioning to kindergarten, these ideas could easily be adapted for any grade or even for starting at a new school.

Perhaps my biggest piece of advice would be to practice your morning routine BEFORE school starts. Get in the habit of going to bed on time and practice what a morning getting ready for school will be like. Practice skills your child will be using while away at school like using the bathroom, putting on a jacket alone, washing hands etc. It is also helpful to role play different situations like how to ask the teacher if you need something, talking to a new friend, choosing a center to play at etc. I would also recommend getting in the habit of setting out school clothes and packing lunches the night before. Especially during those first couple days, you do not want to feel rushed or stressed as you are trying to get out the door.

Visit the school before the first day. Most schools have a back-to-school or meet the teacher night. GO TO IT! Introduce your child to his or her teacher, show them where they will sit, where they will put their backpack, etc. Take a tour around the room and learn where pencils and crayons are kept, where books are, where the nearest bathroom and drinking fountain are etc. Children would likely also enjoy playing on the school playground.

The night or weekend before school starts, have a special First Day of Kindergarten Party. Some ideas I have heard others do are to have a special dinner or a scavenger hunt for a new book. Some parents have also established a special goodbye to help make any hard goodbyes that first day a little more fun and light-hearted. Some ideas I've heard are a funny saying or a hip bump. I have also heard parents say that sending their child to school that very first day with something special in their pocket is helpful. Sometimes even very independent kids would like to have a little piece of home with them as they start this new journey. This could be something you give them at your back to school party. You know your child best and can determine if this would be helpful or distracting for your little one.

Since that first week can be hard have a special after-school activity planned for Friday. I think it might even be fun to continue this throughout the year. One of the teachers I worked with made journals for her students and encouraged them to talk about their week at school with their parents and write or draw pictures in their journals on the ride home each Friday. It is also a good idea to have a snack ready for your child to eat once school gets out and the perfect opportunity to ask them about their day.

Be involved in your child's classroom. Trust me, teachers LOVE this! And it is good for your child to see that their education matters to you and for you to be a part of their school day. Volunteer to read to students, to help in centers, to prep materials for the teacher--just ask and I can almost guarantee the teacher will have some ideas of ways you can help out. Also keep updated on what your child is learning and doing and reinforce concepts at home in their play and everyday life. Know what a typical day at their school looks like so you can ask specific questions such as "What did you choose to do during centers today?" or "What are your new vocabulary words for this week?" If you have older children it is also fun to visit them at school to eat lunch together once in a while.

Don't be surprised or discouraged if you experience some extra fussiness from your child at first. This is to be expected when adjusting to a new routine. Stay positive and encouraging. Avoid sharing any negative thoughts you have about school. If you tell your child that you hated math when you were their age, they may have a preconceived idea that they will never like math either. Never say, "I hate math!" or "I don't know why they even make you do this. You will never use it." Instead maybe explain that you also had a hard time learning certain math concepts and share ideas that helped you or come up with solutions together.

Lastly, here are a couple book titles about starting school that would be fun to read with your child:
*The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn
*How Do Dinosurs Go To School? by Jane Yolen
*Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten by Joseph Slate

Please share any other ideas you may have about transitioning from the laid-back days of summer to starting school!
What routines have you set to help your mornings run smoothly?
What have you done to ease any anxiety your child may be feeling?

What books about starting school have you enjoyed?

What do you do to help your child talk about their school day?

What other thoughts and ideas can you share?


Delia said...

This is so perfect as our assessment and open house happen in less than two weeks! Thank you. I value the advice you have given very much.

I have heard of some moms having a special celebration the first day that they come home as well.

Tannie Datwyler said...

I don't have any advice Kelly, but WOW, what a great post! I will for sure be referring to this in a couple of years when my oldest is ready for kindergarten.