Preparing Your Child for the First Day of Kindergarten
The first day of kindergarten can be stressful for a child, especially for one who has never been in day care. Prepare your child for the first day of school by following the tips below:
Play act the first day of kindergarten. Pretend you are the teacher and your child is the student. Have your child dress up for school and bring a lunch or snack. Line up dolls or teddy bears to be the other students in the class. Better yet, invite your child's friends over to participate. Conduct the class as a teacher might. Do an art project. Learn some letters. Listen to music. Have a recess and lunch time or snack. Play acting in this way will set expectations, allay fears and show your child what a typical day in kindergarten will be like.
After the play acting experience, ask your child how she felt about play-acting a day in school. Listen carefully. Tease out any fears and concerns. Address them by talking about your first day of school or inviting an older sibling to share their experience.
Find out if the kindergarten teacher allows children to bring stuffed animals on the first day of school. A familiar and much loved object can often help your child feel more secure in a new environment.
Highlight the positive aspects of school: your child will be making new friends, participating in fun activities, going on field trips and learning letters and numbers. The first day of kindergarten is an important step in becoming a big girl or boy.
Examine your anxieties about your child's first day of school. Are you having trouble letting go? Are you afraid you won't feel needed? Is there a part of you that would like to keep your child a baby? Know that your anxieties can affect your child. In fact, I've seen many children cry because their parents were hovering over them with worried expressions on their faces, but as soon as they left, the kids were fine. If you think you may project your worries onto your child, talk about your feelings with an adult or counselor who has experienced what you will face and can help you accept the inevitability that your child is growing up.
Visit the school grounds before the first day of kindergarten. Familiarize your child with his classroom, the bathrooms, the lunchroom, the principal's office, the library and the playground. Take your time. Let your child lead you and encourage exploration and questions. Allow your child to feel relaxed and comfortable. If it's possible to meet with the teacher before kindergarten starts, make sure to do so.
About two weeks before the first day of school, start establishing a school routine. Lay out clothes the day before, make lunches or snacks, get to bed earlier, wake up earlier and don't forget the most important thing—a substantial breakfast.
If you follow these steps, the first day of kindergarten should be a joyous day for you and your child and an important step in his or her development (and yours too!).
Laura Ramirez is the author of the award-winning book, Keepers of the Children.
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