Kindergarten is a big step in the life of a child. For some, it is the first time they will have ventured out on their own. For those who have been in daycare or in preschool, it might not be as big of a milestone, but it still begins the “school years”. Whatever the background of the child, most are very proud to begin school.
As a parent, you want your child’s experience in kindergarten to be as positive as possible. To do this, you want to make sure that your child is socially, mentally, and emotionally ready to handle kindergarten.
The social skills that a child needs to enter kindergarten with include
• knowing how to play with others
• knowing how to follow directions
• talking in full sentences
• being polite
• knowing how to handle problems without violence
The only way for a child to learn how to play with other children is by playing with other children. Your child might play fine with you and other adults but be completely baffled when it comes to playing with other kids. To find playmates for your children, you can invite friends over for “play dates”. You can take your kid to the park or other places where kids hang out, or you can enroll her in formal classes like preschool or Little Gym. The more time your child plays with other children the easier it will be for her to start kindergarten.
You also want your child to be well behaved. Following directions is something that has to be learned, as well as saying “please” and “thank you”. Spend time teaching your children these skills. Model correct behavior for them and correct them when they mess up. You especially want to model correct ways of handling anger or disappointment. Little kids have a natural tendency towards aggression when they are mad. You should make sure that your child understands that aggression is never appropriate in a school setting.
There are also academic skills that your child will need. In the years before kindergarten, you should teach your child things like
• The different shapes
• The different colors
• How to count to 10
• The names of the letters in the alphabet
• Be able to recognize the letters in their name
When talking with your child make sure that they understand conceptual words like up, down, first, last, over, and behind. Children will naturally pick these words up from language but you can talk with them to make sure they know what the words mean. The more that you talk with and read to your child, the more prepared academically they will be to begin kindergarten.
Making sure that your child has the emotional skills for kindergarten may be the hardest part. You need to prepare your child for kindergarten. If your child is not used to being away from you for long periods, you will need to begin preparing them long before the first day of school. Before starting kindergarten, the child should be able to spend several hours away from you without any big problems. Besides getting used to being on their own, children should be prepped for what kindergarten is all about. One way to do this is by reading your child books about kindergarten so they can know what to expect. If the child has older siblings, encourage the children to talk with each other about the school experience.
Emotionally, you want your child to be excited for kindergarten and proud to be starting school. At the same time as you encourage these feeling, you should also allow the child to express feelings of fear and apprehension. It is okay if they know that you will miss them while they are gone, but you should keep most of your fears to yourself. You want your child to be confident entering kindergarten; you need to be confident in your child. A child with a scared parent is very likely to be scared himself.