Children are excited about starting school, yet also a little afraid. Starting school means changes in their daily routine including being away from you, learning new rules, and following directions from other adults. Parents can help prepare their child for school.
- Talk to your child about what they can expect. Tell them about the fun things you did when you were in school such as art, music, games, centers and recess. Stay positive about school and be proud of your child for going to school.
- Ask questions that begin with who, what, when, where or why. Parents should take their child's questions seriously and answer in a way that will strengthen and deepen the relationship. Don't always say "yes" and give a reason when saying "no." Listen and find answers together.
- Use words to talk about feelings such as happy, sad, excited, worried, scared, curious or hurt.
- Help your child develop skills such as being able to pay attention and follow simple instructions. Gradually, increase the steps in following directions.
- Cultivate family time and often tell your child you love them. Then you will hear the most wonderful words in the world: "I love you, too."
- Show your child the school and perhaps you can play on the playground.
- At least two weeks before school starts, adjust their sleeping and eating times with the school's schedule. A healthy breakfast is vital to a busy morning of school.
- Children entering preschool or kindergarten should be in bed at least by 8:00. I recommend earlier, leaving thirty minutes for book sharing. Reading is a magic bonding glue with huge learning benefits.
- Limit television and electronic game time, play outside, and let your child enjoy being a kid. Children learn from playful, developmentally appropriate activities using their five senses and movement.
- Encourage your child to dress him or herself. Teach how to use zippers and buttons. Let them put their shoes on and take them off. If they haven't mastered tying their shoes, don't worry about it and continue to practice when the child is interested. Praise often.
Good Manners and Choices
- Say "please" and "thank you" often and your child will too. Explain that good manners help people get along with each other. Teach your child how to listen without interrupting. Explain that children are expected to raise their hand when they want to ask the teacher a question.
- Explain why sharing toys with others is important. It helps everyone have more fun and makes friends. Play a card or board game that involves taking turns. Demonstrate good sportsmanship.
- Ask children to pick up toys at the end of play. Praise them lavishly.
- Model good behavior using words, not force.
- Promote their creativity. Provide crayons, markers, safety scissors, playdough, sidewalk chalk, washable paint, interesting craft supplies, recycled containers, and boxes. Buy puzzles, books, and games at garage sales. It is a good idea to purchase extra school supplies at the discounted summer price and save them for later in the year, especially crayons, glue and markers.
- Help your child learn the names of basic colors. The primary colors are red, yellow and blue. Buy water colors and mix the paints to make the other colors.
- Give your child a notebook and play Blue's Clues. Together find different colors and shapes in the environment. Compliment them for being a good detective.
- Play music and dance, sing, or march together. Teach your child to catch, throw and kick a ball. Play "follow the leader." Have your child copy everything you do when you hop, skip, jump and clap. Let your child lead you with their ideas or patterns. Performing simple patterns enhances reading and math skills.
- Give your child simple tasks that involve matching, sorting, or counting objects such as marbles, cards, M&M's, cereal, pasta, coins, rocks, shells, beans, yarn, buttons, socks, towels, and leaves. Help them understand a one-on-one correlation matching objects with the number name of objects.
- Teach your children to print their names with only the first letter capitalized.
- Have your child make friends with neighborhood children who will be entering school to develop social skills. Swap babysitting.
Do not stress yourself out, or your child, if they do not know all the letters and aren't yet reading. The kindergarten teacher will spend hours on letters and phonics. The best thing you can do is show your child a love and enthusiasm for reading. Sharing books every day develops nurturing, vocabulary, expression, and knowledge. Of course, help them with letter recognition and phonics when they are interested - but using flashcards and screens is not the best way to learn. Use sensory/motor integration which is developmentally appropriate and attainable. Children learn best by one of these modes: Visual, Auditory or Kinesthetic (touch).
Parents can contribute greatly to the adjustment of their child to school. But remember that it may take six weeks for a child to adjust. I've noticed surprised parents when I told them how wonderfully behaved their child was at school. They told me their kindergartner "lets off steam" after school and acts out. I think this is normal after a long day of trying to please adults. They are tired and need rest and pampering, too.
Perhaps the Parent/Teacher Association could organize a Boo Hoo Breakfast for parents on the first day of school. This provides support and a reason for the parents to be encouraged out of the classroom so that the teacher can proceed with her lesson plans. The PTA could provide tissues, chocolate covered donuts, and reassurance from the principal, assistant principal or counselor.
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