I spent years teaching kindergarten before I was an at home mom and there were definitely things I wished all of my students could do. Now, as I’m sending my own little guy into “big school,” I’m trying to make sure he’s as ready as possible. Surprisingly, it’s not really letters, phonics, and counting that will have him ready for kindergarten. Sure, those things are important, but keep in mind that every kindergarten class is full of students with every kind of background. Some will be reading books, and others will just be learning to recognize their ABC’s. That’s part of the joy and challenge for every kindergarten teacher. Independence and confidence is what helps students (and teachers) the most.
I put this one first because I can honestly say it is high on the list of ways to be ready for kindergarten. Shoelaces are the perfect tripping hazard and believe it or not, shoelaces somehow make the perfect chew toy when kids are sitting on the floor. I know it sounds gross, but I’ve seen it happen TOO MANY times. So, send your kindergartener to school in shoes that they can fasten securely on their own. Can’t tie yet? No problem! Velcro is a kindergarten teacher’s best friend. You can also invest in some elastic laces with zip tie style fasteners. Just make sure your student can fasten his or her own shoes. Your child AND their teacher will thank you for it.
The lunch room is probably the biggest thing I’m terrified of for my son. Chaos isn’t his thing and I’ve yet to see an elementary school lunchroom that isn’t loud and crazy. So what can I do to help get ready for kindergarten craziness? I can make sure he knows how to take care of his own food. If I was sending a kid to school to buy lunch, I would find out how the school served food and make sure my little one was comfortable scooping a serving of food onto a plate or tray. Since I’m sending a “bringer” to school, I will make sure he knows how to open his containers of food.Practice opening juice boxes, snack wrappers, straws and more for special events at school too.
Use the Bathroom
You might think that your child is a potty pro, however, things in public bathrooms are different. And elementary school bathrooms are just public restrooms with smaller fixtures. The noise, the door locks, and urinals for boys are the challenges in this arena.
Flushes are loud, especially in the small bathrooms that are sometimes in kindergarten classrooms. Just let them know that you always flush… ALWAYS. You can also take a trip to Target and test out locking the door. And then practice unlocking it. (You don’t crawl under the stall door to get out of a locked door, right? Again, I’ve seen it happen many times.) Then, for all of the boys, a urinal is an interesting feat. If there is a grown male who can show your son proper urinal ettiquette, that’s going to be a good thing.
One more piece of advice for the bathroom. Make sure you send your child to school in clothes they can get off (and on) themselves. Belts, snaps, buttons, and tights can be tricky. Just make sure they’ve got it under control to prevent accidents and to make sure they can get put back together afterwards.
Know How To Get Home
Most schools have an impressive system for dismissal and will label your child 6 ways to Tuesday on the right way to get home. However, the first days of school are crazy for every grade level and every school. Get your child ready for kindergarten by working on how they get home. If they ride a bus, make sure they know that AND what bus they are supposed to be riding. If they are going to get picked up (carpool) make sure they know. Try to get familiar with your school’s dismissal system and give your student a head’s up. As long as they know how they are supposed to get home, and feel comfortable saying it outloud to new people, they will be on the right track.
I know I said that most of the skills for an easy transition into kindergarten aren’t about academic skills, but knowing how to write and recognize one’s name is SUPER helpful. Most everything is labeled in kindergarten: cubbies, desks, supply boxes, lunch boxes, coats, folders… The list goes on and on. If your student can find his or her name, they will know even more about where they should be and what they should be doing. If they can actually WRITE their name, then they will be able to label all of the new things they will be doing in their new “big” classroom.
Sending your child to kindergarten is exciting (and nerve racking). My advice for you, and for myself, is to relax. It’s another one of those things that I guess we are supposed to enjoy because it will only happen once. There probably won’t be another “first day of school” that will be as memorable for us parents as this one. So, let’s have our tissues ready, their shoes fastened, and our boys ready for the urinal.