I am not ready for my oldest daughter to make the transition into kindergarten. I know she’s excited to try something new, but I’m not sure I’m ready. I’m gonna be THAT MOM. You know, the one who takes their little student to class on the first day and ends up sobbing on the way back to the car.
Anyway, I’m taking this summer to try to prepare my daughter —and myself—for kindergarten in the fall. Here are a few tips and tricks I’ve picked up along the way.
Start by Setting a Schedule
When our kids are little, we don’t usually spend much time thinking about their schedule. They get up when they awake, and fall asleep when they’re tired.
We should all try to live like that, but it’s not always an option—especially when you’re dealing with a work or school schedule. Start on day one of your summer vacation by setting a schedule for your little ones to follow. Go to bed at the same time every night and get up at the same time every morning. Make breakfast a habit before a certain time every morning.
It might take you a few weeks to get used to this schedule, but it’s the best thing that you can do to prevent fights once school starts in the fall.
Don’t Skip Meet the Teacher Day
Every school hosts a meet the teacher day a few weeks before the school year starts. It gives your little ones an opportunity to meet their new instructors and some of their new classmates, and to get familiar with where they’ll be spending the next 8 months of their life. This may be the only opportunity you have to get your kid’s supplies list before school starts.
Don’t skip Meet the Teacher day. Just being able to spend an hour in their new classroom, talking to and asking questions of their new teacher can make a huge difference. They won’t be going to a new, unfamiliar place once the school year starts. They’ll be going somewhere comfortable, where they’ve got a desk with their name on it.
Give Them a Break
When it comes right down to it, give them a break. Starting a new school is stressful, no matter how old you are. If you, like me, work from home and have never sent your children to daycare, they aren’t used to you leaving them somewhere for the day other than with a family member, so it will likely stress them out.
Give. Them. A. Break. Lay off on things like chores and other tasks, in favor of letting them adapt to their new environment. As they get used to heading to school every day, you can start slowly reintroducing their normal activities so they don’t get overwhelmed.
Spend Time Reading Aloud
Kindergarten isn’t like it used to be when we were kids. Our little ones are expected to know a lot more going in than we ever were, which means that it’s up to us as parents to make sure they’re prepared. One of the best ways to do this is to spend plenty of time reading aloud both to and with your little ones.
Pick books that you love to share with them, and books that they can read or you can help them sound out that they can read to you. One of my favorite books to share with my daughters is J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit—even if I’ve blown my voice out trying to read Gollum’s parts like I’m Andy Serkis. Read to your kids. Have them read to you. It’s the best thing you can do to help get them ready for their first year of school.
Work on Fine Motor Skills
Reading isn’t the only thing your new kindergartner will need to be able to do. They’ll also need a basic grasp of various fine motor skills like painting, writing, coloring, and cutting with scissors. These are fairly easy to practice though—hand them a paintbrush instead of letting them fingerpaint. Give them a pair of safety scissors and let them go to town on some construction paper, then glue all the pieces together in random orders to create mosaic art.
The goal here is to help them develop their fine motor skills, but they don’t need to feel like they’re learning to achieve this goal. Make it a game and they won’t even realize that they’re gathering the skills that they need to succeed in kindergarten.
You’ll Be Fine—and So Will They
Take a deep breath, Mom and Dad. You will be fine, even if you shed a few tears when you drop your little student off for the first time. They’ll be okay too. Just spend some time getting them ready for what will be the beginning of one of the most unique experiences of their life, and they’ll be more than happy to get up and head to school every morning. I hope.