by children’s author, Audrey Vernick, of Is Your Buffalo Ready for Kindergarten?
As children prepare for their first day of kindergarten, parents everywhere, well, kind of lose their minds. Some of them. Not you, of course. But maybe someone you know.
Parents worry. What if their child’s not ready? What if he cries? What if he’s the only one who can’t use scissors or write his name?
“Kindergarten is a place where children go to learn,” says kindergarten teacher Sheri Eichar of Chico, California. “They are not expected to know it all when they get there.”
Repeat after me: “They are not expected to know it all.”
In the days remaining between now and your child’s big day, there are some things you can do to help your child be ready for anything. But the truth is, you’ve already done what’s needed in all the years building up to this moment. Take some time to assess your child’s readiness, to fill in some teeny tiny gaps you may have overlooked, but remember: everything is going to be just fine. It really is. Pinky swear.
1. Familiarity Breeds Contentedness
Fear of the unknown is hard to tame. If the opportunity exists, take your child on a tour so he can see his new school building. If possible, visit the classroom before the first day.
Even without access to the classroom, you can still familiarize your child to the feel of a typical school. It’s entirely impossible to say this without sounding self-serving, but it’s a really good idea to read a bunch of school-oriented picture books to give your child a sense of the general routine of a school day. Reading has the bonus perk of letting your child practice sitting still and listening, not to mention the extra snuggle time.
You can also role play different situations your child might encounter. For example, if there’s a buffalo in his class, should he introduce himself in a friendly way or point and laugh at his hump?
2. Do Your Homework
It’s sometimes easy to lose sight of the day-to-day basics parents need to attend to when making sure their children are ready to start school. We’re so focused on reviewing scissor safety and rules for sharing and proper hygiene that we might forget to make sure our children phase out of summer’s loose nights and get back into a proper sleep routine.
There’s so much to remember that first morning—eat, brush your hair, brush your teeth, get out the door on time. You don’t want your child to be stressed out about forgetting something essential. “Have a checklist and show them they are ready,” Eicher suggests. “That helps them relax and enjoy their kindergarten experience.”
3. Encourage Self-Sufficiency
“Kindergarten readiness should look at school-based behaviors, says Maria Perna-Elias, a kindergarten teacher from Narberth, Pennsylvania. “Readiness includes having a child start to self regulate, be able to separate from parents, take turns, express their needs, and listen.”
Of course, your child doesn’t have to be fully self-sufficient, but should be heading in that direction. (Sadly, this may be true for the next twenty years.)
Teachers will help when they need to, but the more self-sufficient your child is with his own wardrobe, the more time the teacher will have for class activities. Work on snaps and buttons and zippers and laces. Your child should be comfortable speaking up and asking questions, too. You can practice this in restaurants; encourage him to order his own lunch.
It’s also a good idea to think of situations he may encounter in school that are different from his home environment. Does he know how to drink from a water fountain without putting his mouth right on the spigot? (That’s worth knowing.)
4. Remember: It’s Not All Fun and Games, but it’s Close….
“We play hard in kindergarten,” says Eicher. “It’s how we learn.”
How’s that for a job description?
Remind your child that in addition to all the abstract stuff that might be making him a little nervous (learning, maintaining self-control, homework), there’s going to be a whole lot of fun built into every single day. Playground and puzzles, books and blocks. And the chance to make new friends.
“The most important part of kindergarten is learning to get along,” says Judy Rubenstein, who taught kindergarten in Monmouth County, New Jersey for eighteen years. Before he heads off to school, review everything he should remember when playing with friends—taking turns, sharing, and, of course, having fun.
5. Put On A Happy Face
You may be a wreck on your child’s first day, but it’s important that you not act like a wreck. Smile, smile, smile. (You may hide under your bed and sob later.)
“Have a positive attitude,” Rubenstein says. “Tell your child he’s going to have a great time and make new friends. And that you can’t wait to hear about his day when he gets home.”
And that leads us straight to
The Single Most Important Step To Ensure Your Child Is Ready for Kindergarten:
Get that kindergarten child a backpack!
Wait! I can help with that one.
I have taken great delight in stuffing a kindergartner-sized backpack with all the necessities a kid—or buffalo—could dream of, from crayons to an awesome aluminum water bottle to glue sticks and scissors, etc. (and, of course, a signed copy of IS YOUR BUFFALO READY FOR KINDERGARTEN) for one lucky winner.
BIO: Audrey Vernick is the author of Is Your Buffalo Ready for Kindergarten
(illustrated by Daniel Jennewein, published by Balzer &
Bray/HarperCollins) and its 2011 sequel, Teach Your Buffalo to Play
Drums. Her next picture book, She Loved Baseball: The Effa
Manley Story (illustrated by Don Tate, published by
HarperCollins) will be released in October
(illustrated by Daniel Jennewein, published by
Balzer and Bray/Harper Collins)and it’s 2011 sequel.
She lives near the ocean in New Jersey where she
survived her son’s and daughter’s first day at kindergarten.
Melissa’s Note: I could just hug Audrey for this timely post! Thank you. Why? Because my youngest daughter, J., enters Kindergarten next week and I’m more terrified than with my first daughter because J. was diagnosed with epilepsy this year. There are many what ifs? and we’ll sees. I’m feeling nervous as I’m sure so are many of you.
Here’s to happy faces and a.m. cocktails on Day One!
P.S. Audrey’s book is exceptional — enter to win the goodies and her book or just rush out and buy it. You’ll be glad you did. THANKS, AUDREY! It’s good to know you survived your first day and lived to tell about it.