8 Tips for a Happy Start to Kindergarten

“Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change,” says scientist Stephen Hawking in Dona Matthews and Joanne Foster’s Beyond Intelligence: Secrets for Raising Happily Productive Kids. And starting Kindergarten is one of the very first big transitions, or changes, your child will encounter. When we help our kids have an emotionally secure start to their school career, we’re setting a pattern that will serve them their whole lives.

What Do They Need?

Even if day care or mommy-and-me classes have been a part of his life, Kindergarten seems like “the big world” to your child – and to you. Big buildings, lots more cars, lots more kids, and his first real teacher.  Emotional support is obviously a good idea with all this bigness to get used to, but what does that look like for a five year old?

The Number One Need

Extra attention to nurturing should be your priority during the first weeks and maybe months of school. Nurturing is kind of a general term that can mean different things to different kids. Hugs and focused attention are a must, but so is extra playtime and cozying up with conversation. Think about helping your little one put himself back into a calm and peaceful mood through familiar play and favorite books throughout the transitional phase.  Also, keep up your daily routines so that while your child is adapting to a whole slew of new rules, unfamiliar faces, and an entire campus to navigate, he can fall back on the security of knowing things are just the same as always at home.

Listen Well

Get a conversation going with your child from the get-go.  Not only will you be helping your child transition now, you’ll be setting up ways to connect on school topics throughout the years.  Do yourself a favor and don’t develop the habit of saying, “How was school today?”  Specific questions work better, like “Who’d you play with?” or “What games were fun?” Give it your all when you listen, even if it’s hard to make sense of the story. It also really helps to have a non-judgmental mom and dad, even if you’re dying to give advice. Cultivate a parental lexicon of phrases such as  “Tell me more,” “What was your favorite part?” and so on.

What’s Your Child’s Special Skill?

Listen to the stories your kids tell you during this important transition phase, for clues about your child’s type of intelligence. Does she tell you about the books, the games, the other kids, counting things, the songs they sing? All these are areas of intelligence, according to authors Matthews and Foster. Areas of interest become areas of strength later on. Help foster their love of learning by feeding those areas of natural ability.

Play School at Home

Playing school at home can be a way of letting off steam or figuring out how to fit in. Some kids want to act out the role of their teacher as a way to get comfortable with their big new school world. Provide paper, crayons, books, etc. for some pretend school play and if you join in the game, all the better.  Many experiences and feelings are acted out in play rather than told in words. Keep your eyes and ears open!

Don’t Skimp on Outdoor Free Play

It may look like your little ones are playing all day at school and don’t need much more at home, but in reality, they’re working hard at school – working at relationships, at adapting to fixed schedules, at being quiet when told to, and many other new skills. Schools have reduced physical education activities in favor of academics so it’s going to be up to you to provide free play time. Free play is when imagination and creative solution-making develop, as well as strong bodies.

Get Enough Downtime

Supporting your child’s confidence and ability to adapt to change means making sure she gets enough rest and quiet time. That’s when our emotional storehouse is replenished, especially for introverted kids. Keep the after-school enrichment activities down a bit while the transition to Kindergarten routines is happening. Nobody does well when they’re stretched to the limit, even when it’s with fun. You’re teaching her that when she’s in the middle of a creative challenge to something new, rest will help provide the confidence she needs.

Stay with The Bedtime Routines

As mentioned before, familiar routines are a great comfort during times of adaptation and change – and this is especially true when it comes to bedtime routines. Stick with the ones that work, even if they seem too young-ish for your big Kindergartener. Books, a song, and some loving words will go a long way right now. You can slowly shorten the bedtime rituals as the school year goes on. But for now, cherish the opportunity to listen and encourage. It’s almost predictable that secrets have a way of being told in these quiet times.

Your New Job

Authors Matthews and Foster encourage parents to develop the habit of talking to the Kindergarten teacher when there are concerns. Teachers at this stage of education understand that school is new for parents too. You are now your child’s advocate in the school system, and it’s good to get comfortable in that role early on. It’s not an adversarial role, it’s more of an important partnership that has many good years ahead.

Is your little one starting Kindergarten?  What’s your strategy to help with the transition?

Tags : school   kindergarten   milestones   

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