What you need to know before your child starts Preschool/Kindergarten
The summer and sun is upon us but before we know it, it will be September. This means back to school time for many of our children. Some of you may have little ones just beginning Preschool or entering Kindergarten and want to be prepared. As a preschool teacher and a mom of a three year old facing the same situation, I have been thinking and preparing already for September. How do you prepare your child? What will they need? Look no further, here are some good tips to prepare your little one and yourself for the school year ahead.
Your child will need a book-bag. Preferably one that will hold lots of things, but not overly big they can’t handle or fit in a cubby. When getting a book-bag be sure it is not too small. It is tempting to grab one of the preschool small size book-bags but my best advice is to go a size up. Throughout the year, especially at this level your child will be bringing many things to and from school, possibly a blanket if they nap at school, snacks/lunch, a folder, extra change of clothes/shoes, art work, jackets/sweaters and many other things that may need to be transported to and from. You’ll be happy you can fit it all in and so will the teacher. Have your child pick out their own book-bag. This will not only get them excited to use it, but also feel a little more in control about the new environment they are entering into.
Prepare your child
Preparing your child to start school can come in many forms depending on age and grade level. Discuss what will be expected of them, what they might see or learn. Talk about how to make friends. Remind them to share and be kind, listen to their teacher’s directions. You can try role playing a school setting with them to practice skills. You may want to get some books about starting school or about social skills/situations. Practice self-help skills beforehand like zippering coats, getting shoes on, putting a book-bag on/off, using the bathroom, getting a coat on and off. Of course many of these things will be practiced in school daily, however there is one teacher and many students and it helps when the children have a good base of self-help skills that may just need a little refining from the teachers. Your child will feel more confident if there are several things they can do for themselves. As parents we often find it faster and easier to just do so much for them, but they will have to learn anyway and it will only help you in the long run if they can begin to do some of these things on their own.
Start an appropriate bedtime
During the summer, many times our children are sleeping later and going to bed later. Once school comes around it can be a shock to the system to start getting up early and get moving. Make the transition a little easier by taking the last two weeks or so of summer to set their routine. Once school rolls around you’ll be happy you aren’t quickly changing their schedule. They’ll be happier little ones on their way into the classroom and throughout the day. Save some time in the morning to have a good breakfast too.
Many schools will have an orientation prior to school. If your schedule allows, try not to skip this. Going into the classroom and meeting the teacher will benefit both you and your child. You’ll have some time to talk to the teacher, ask questions, get information and get a feel for the environment. Your child will be able to check out the same, but go home that day to discuss the start of their new routine and hopefully ease some of the nerves of going somewhere new. Finding out how a typical day would go and the routine they are expected to follow will help you also prepare your child for school.
Check book-bags and folders each day
Once school gets going, your best form of communication will come from inside the child’s book-bag. The younger children in preschool and kindergarten may not be able to report all the necessary information or will forget to hand you important papers, be sure to check the book-bags daily so you don’t miss anything. Book-bags will also hold, uneaten snacks and maybe clothes from an accident that will need to be taken out.
Send in appropriate clothes
Changes of clothes are size sensitive at this age and seasonal. Be sure you keep up with changes in sizes and weather as the year moves on. If on the off chance your child needs to change, you want them to have the appropriate gear.
Communicate with the teacher
Never be afraid to ask questions or share information if you need to. Teachers have your child’s best interest at heart and want them to be the best learner they can. Parents/Guardians know their child best so feel free to share important information that will help the teacher help your child. Be sure to communicate absences with the teacher or office. These teacher’s worry about your children too and when they aren’t in class, a phone call to the school eases these worries.
Talk about school in a positive exciting way
Our children feed off our energy. Be sure to talk up school and all the fun they will have and new things they will learn. Your attitude can make or break a child’s attitude going in. They are truly sponges. They will sense how important you see school.
Health and Allergies
If your child has any allergies or health concerns be sure to communicate this with the school nurse and teacher prior to the first day. The school wants to ensure your child will be well cared for while on their watch.
Remember to send your child with appropriate footwear so they can engage in all their activities without getting hurt. Shoes with rubber soles like sneakers work best. Your child will be free to run around during recess without fear of any slipping or toe injuries.
Be sure all the school’s required paperwork is up to date to ensure your child gets the best care and that all phone numbers are up to date in case of emergencies.
Label school items
With so many children bringing so many things, belongings can easily be left behind or mixed up leaving teachers to search for their owners. To avoid any child coming home with the wrong items or no items, have labels on jackets, book-bags, lunch bags and extra clothes. Not only will the child get used to seeing their name, teachers can easily find the owner of that pretty sweater left mysteriously on the playground when it was hot or that one lonely lunch-bag left sitting in the cafeteria.
Pick- up and Drop off
Be sure to figure out how your child will get to and from school and talk to your child about this. The first few days of school especially are chaotic, being sure your child is accounted for with ways to and from school is a must. Drop-off, especially the first few days can be filled with anxiety, nerves, maybe some tears from both you and your child. My best advice is to try hard to be positive and upbeat during drop-off. Assure your child that you will see them later, say goodbye and give them love, maybe send them with a special kiss on the hand to hold in their pocket or something special between you, but don’t linger too long or sneak away. Be confident and reassuring during the goodbye. As a preschool teacher for many years I have learned that the majority of children bounce back after being sad during drop-off quite quickly after you leave and the teachers are well versed in being able to handle these emotional situations. It will allow them to step up as secure care takers and ease your child’s fears.
At young ages, many children find comfort in having their favorite stuffed animal or blanket nearby. While I don’t want to encourage bringing anything to school, I know as a mom who’s child has a special blanket how important these items can be when entering an unfamiliar place. Sending such important items to school may not be the best idea because items could become lost, used by other children, broken or forgotten. I try to encourage my daughter to leave her blanket at home for those reasons but if she must bring it I will try to encourage her to leave it in her book-bag and visit if she needs to.
If your child has to bring a snack to school, be aware of any classroom restrictions due to allergies. Many classrooms are peanut free. When choosing a snack for your child, keep it simple and healthy. Healthy snacks will keep their minds sharp during the day and fuel their body without causing any bursts of energy making it difficult to focus and learn. If you’re looking for some ideas: goldfish crackers, apple slices, bananas, yogurt, graham crackers, any fruit that is pre-sliced, pretzels, string cheese, just to name a few.
I hope you found this list helpful and I wish you all a wonderful school year filled with lots of learning, friends, and fun!