Every parent simultaneously looks forward to and dreads the day their child goes to kindergarten. Your baby is now off in the world, spending the day with other children and adults that will impact their lives. The kindergarten years are full of so much growth. But while we tend to think of kindergarten as the start of our children’s academic career, the truth is getting ready for kindergarten isn’t nearly as “academic” as we think it might be.
Preparing for kindergarten is much less about how high your child can count or whether they can recite the alphabet forwards and backwards. Being ready for kindergarten is much more about having the skills to be independent. Think of preparing for kindergarten less about preparing for an academic future and more about preparing to be away from home and the people who do everything for them.
How to Really Prepare Your Child for Kindergarten:
Independence is the name of the kindergarten game. Unlike preschool or daycare, kindergarten teachers aren’t able to help your child with putting on or taking off their clothing. They aren’t able to help them wipe their bum. They aren’t going to open your child’s lunch containers or their string cheese.
To help your child prepare for this amount of independence, here are a few things you can work on in the months or weeks before kindergarten:
1. Putting on and taking off their coat and shoes. Encourage your child to dress themselves and hang up their coat. Avoid buying shoes with laces or clothing that will require assistance. Sweatpants are preferred to pants with buttons or laces that may result in your child struggling with and having accidents.
2. Using the washroom independently (this includes wiping)
3. Practice personal hygiene such as washing hands, wiping their own face after lunch and blowing their nose.
4. Be able to recognize their name in print. You can help with this by putting their name above their coat hook at home, or on their bedroom door, at their spot at the table.
5. Using scissors. We highly recommend this Melissa & Doug Scissor Skills book for practicing early scissor skills.
6. Opening and closing all items in their lunch (this includes unzipping and zipping lunch bags, opening and closing all the containers and packages such as granola bars).
7. Following a routine. Start waking up at the same time every day, getting dressed, having breakfast at the same time. The more they are able to get used to this routine during the summer, the easier it will be for them to follow this routine when the school year begins.
8. Labelling emotions and knowing how to self-regulate. Kindergarten is full of many emotions. Talk about emotions at home, even labelling your own emotions. Read books about emotions and help your child understand and be able to express what they are feeling in a healthy way.