It’s almost that time of year again. Back-to-school season is quickly approaching and parents everywhere are putting together lists of things to do to prepare for the school year ahead. If your kids are going into kindergarten, you’re doing this for the first time and might not know where to begin. Starting kindergarten is a big milestone, but with the change in your child’s daily routine, there are a couple of things to keep in mind. Katherine Jasinski, RECE, RT, BASC child studies and Manager of WoodGreen’s Morse Street Child Care Centre, shares her expert advice on how to prepare for the first day. Check it out below!
Prepare for Transitions
First and foremost, this is a big transition for your child. Kindergarten is a new domain and they might be confused if they are not aware of what is going on. Keep them in the loop by outlining what steps you are going to take as a parent when you drop them off. For example, you can say “We’re going to drive down to school, and I’ll walk you into your class. We will say hi to your teacher and then I’m going to give you a hug and a kiss and wave goodbye.” Going through this process step by step will allow them to better understand their surroundings and not be too surprised on their first day. With that being said, be sure to keep the spiel short and sweet. Going into too much detail may overcomplicate things.
Hype them up!
Before the big day arrives, get your kids excited! You can do this by having them look forward to all the new school supplies they get to use like their backpacks or lunchboxes. Maybe tell them about all the fun things they’ll get to experience or the new friends they are going to make. If you start this well in advance it’ll build the excitement leading up to the big day.
It is really important to remember that there will be only one teacher and one RECE for 25 students. There will likely be a line-up of children waiting for the teacher to help them out. So, if your child can do things on their own, it will make the transition a lot smoother for both teacher and student.
For example, you can practice eating lunch with them. Teaching them how to open their Ziploc bags and containers will ensure that they won’t waste time during lunch waiting for the teacher to come around and help them out. Another thing you can teach them is how to put their shoes and jackets on, so they are not struggling to do this when they want to play outside! It is also critical to help them learn how to meet their own toileting needs. The school system is not hands-on when it comes to this, so they should be well prepared. While you are working on independence with your child, be sure to celebrate all the little wins. When they try to do anything on their own, even if they don’t get it right the first time, positive reinforcement will keep them wanting to try again.
Talk about Feelings
Kids experience a wide variety of emotions outside of “happy” or “sad” but may not know how to put those feelings into words. Teaching them about every feeling under the sun will allow them to understand and communicate their emotions. Maybe you can go about it by reading them a story about feelings. When they come home from kindergarten, asking them how their day was could limit their answer to “good’ or “bad”. If you ask them how they felt today, and start integrating “feeling words” into your conversations, they will be able to express what emotions they had throughout the day during various activities.
Prepare to Share
Starting kindergarten is all about new experiences, and sharing is one of them! Especially if you have an only child, they may not understand how to share or how to advocate for their needs. Practice these things at home so they are smooth sailing at school. This can look like teaching them that they can’t go first all the time, or showing them how to take turns. When it comes to advocating for their needs, you can go over scenarios with them and teach them what to say, and how to use their words if another child is not sharing or tries to take their belongings.
Plan for the Honeymoon Period to End
As a parent, preparing your child is a big task, but it is crucial that you mentally prepare yourself as well. Katherine notes that the first two weeks of school might go smoothly, but once reality sets in, and they have to do it daily, it could fall apart. Save yourself from emotional turmoil by mentally preparing for the honeymoon phase to end, and remind yourself that it's okay. Try to talk through it with your child by focusing on all the wonderful things kindergarten has to offer, and their favourite things to do at school.
Know that your Child Will be Tired
Your child’s routine will be getting rocked when they first start school. Everything will no longer be according to their own schedule, and they won’t be able to do everything whenever they want. A good way to handle this is to ensure that you have an evening routine down pat every night. Keeping the same routine creates predictability for your child, and ultimately helps with regulating emotion.
This point might seem trivial but is more important than you think. Your kids will be moving from place to place throughout the day and things will get lost. Labelling every container, sock, shirt, and pretty much every last thing your child is bringing to school with them will prevent you from constantly having to buy new things.
Look for the Mess!
If your child comes home with messy hair, mud on their shirt, and their shoes on backwards, you can take a sigh of relief! All this means is that they had an amazing day and were out and about keeping busy at school.
As you go through this process with your child, don’t forget to celebrate yourself. You got here as a parent and have done so much work to prepare your kids for this moment. This is a big transition for you too, so give yourself some grace, and allow yourself to sit with your emotions. Soak in all the success and hard work you put in and give yourself a big pat on the back. Don’t forget to take tons of pictures too!
For more information, check out WoodGreen’s Childcare Services, and don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions!