Nature Play On Vancouver Island

Nature Kindergarten On Vancouver Island

Ten Simple Ways to Prepare Your Child for Kindergarten

I have been doing a little inservice for teachers this summer on the transition to Kindergarten and it reminded me that families may appreciate a few tips to help with their child's transition to Kindergarten.

Starting kindergarten is an exciting and important time and parents naturally want their children to have a terrific first experience at school. There is so much to learn in school — how to make new friends, how to function in a class of 20 students, how to open lunch containers, where to sit, how to walk in line in the hall, and on and on!
While teachers will be getting to know your child, introducing routines and  establishing expectations, the first couple of weeks will go smoother if your child has some practice to help him envision what school looks like. 

Students who are entering kindergarten should be able to do some of the following. These tips are not in any special order and are intended to support your family transition to kindergarten.

1.    Recognize and print their name:
Ideally, the children will print their name from left to right with a capital first letter and the rest lower case. At the very minimum, though, they need to be able to write some form of their first name that is recognizable to the teacher.

Using sensory materials like magnetic letters, playdoh or smelly markers children can practice printing and tracing their name. Name games like name bingo using magnetic letters, tokens and even bingo dobbers are fun ways to practice recognition. Make sure to write their name and display it in different places such as the fridge, bathroom mirror or bedroom. Using sticky notepaper allows you to move the names around and play hide and seek, build the name and other fun games.

2.     Introduce new routines
Over the next few weeks begin to practice routines that will prepare your child for school like making lunches together the night before, going to bed early, waking up and getting dressed, eating breakfast and heading outside (you could head out to the park, playground, forest or beach). If your child does not like to eat breakfast instead try a small smoothie and make sure that the morning snack has protein. If your child is not a water drinker start now so that it becomes a mindful habit.

Getting dressed in the morning can take forever for some children. Will they choose their own clothes or will you? If your child has trouble making the decision, plan the outfit the night before letting your child choose some favourite, comfortable pieces.  In our family we had two girls, including one who was "as slow as molasses" and it made all the difference having multiples of a favourite, comfortable top and planning the night before. If you are planning on walking to school add that routine as well, walk to the school fields and play chasing games, explore the school garden, enjoy a snack and water break beside the playground and set aside time for your child to explore the equipment.

3.     Encourage independent habits
Kindergarteners need to be able to put on their own coats and shoes. If your child hasn’t mastered shoe tying at the beginning of the year, don’t panic! Be sure to send him to school in velcro shoes  or slip ons that he can do himself.

Packing and unpacking a backpack will be a daily job for your child. Provide time to practice opening the pack wide, opening and closing clips, putting containers into the sack and the water bottle on the side. (tip: make sure to purchase a lightweight small refillable bottle).

4.     Snack and lunch:
Kindergarteners need to independently open their containers and water bottles. Practice at home by using their school containers for snack and lunch in the weeks before school begins. Purchase lightweight containers like bento boxes that are easy for your child to open. A small, lightweight refillable water bottle is recommended.

Provide multiple opportunities for them to choose which item to eat first. Children who are told what to eat first, second... have difficulty making a decision and sometimes abandon eating altogether. Some families have a snack container and a lunch container to separate the two and make decision making easier for their child. 

Preparing lunch and snack together often provides opportunities for families to talk about what to eat first. Providing your child with a treat is totally ok but make sure that he knows that it is part of his lunch and that snacks are full of nutrients to get them through the morning. Make sure to avoid juice and opt for water.

Most classrooms have a set amount of time for eating which may be new for your child. If your child is used to eating at random times you may want to plan ahead by peeling and cutting up the food into bite size pieces. This may help your child eat more during these structured eating times.


5.    Independent bathroom habits:
Kindergarten teachers will not be able to accompany students to the bathroom. The students must be able to handle their own pants, wipe themselves and wash their own hands.  

Choose simple clothes that your child already knows how to put on. Teach your child how to do up a zipper, put on a jacket, do up buttons.

6.    Separation from parents:
Well before school starts begin to talk positively about Kindergarten, plan play visits to the school playground, try to arrange a playdate at the school or nearby park with a friend who is also starting school, read books about starting school and be positive.

7.    The right backpack:
Kindergarten children need a well fitted water resistant daypack designed to carry a lunch kit, water bottle and library book. Resist purchasing a fun, trendy pack and opt for a functioning pack with sternum straps to spread out the weight, adjustable shoulder straps and side pouches for water bottles. These packs are usually found at speciality stores like Mountain Equipment Coop (online and brick/mortar in Victoria).

8.    Making decisions
Kindergarten children will make decisions all day long at school: where to sit, what to eat, which tool to use, who to stand beside, what game to play, which book to read.... this can be overwhelming for some children. Providing your child with multiple experiences making decisions will provide plenty of practice and prepare a smoother, less stressful transition to school. 

9.    Working together
Your child may be used to having the full attention of the adults in their lives and as a parent I know how important  this is. In Kindergarten there are usually 20 children and one adult. Children are encouraged to help each other, share materials and clean up after themselves. In Kindergarten we usually work together, this means if a child cannot open a glue stick then they can turn and ask a peer to show them.  Co-constructing with your child may take a little longer but builds the mindful habit and confidence of solving a problem or working together to solve it rather than asking an adult to do it for them. 

10.     Learning is fun
We know that children learn through play and that it will be a large part of your child's kindergarten experience. Plan regular, daily opportunities for long blocks of time to explore and play with open ended materials. Play with them, alongside them or nearby. through play children learn mastery, how to make a decision, spark their imagination and understand how things work. It nurtures language development, builds knowledge, strengthens self esteem and helps with expression of emotions. 

Thanks for stopping by, 


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