As parents, we worry. We worry about things we’ve done, things we’ve not done and then all the things (that we may or may not have control over) that may affect our children.
And one of those common worries and questions we often hear is: is my kid ready for kindergarten?
If they’re registered and at the right age, the answer is yes. Even if your child is at a different developmental place than your friends’ children are.
Our District Vice Principal for Early Learning, Tanis Anderson, has this advice for parents: “Think of your child like a flower in a garden. Each child will grow at different times. Don’t compare your flower to the other flowers, rather, celebrate the unique qualities your child has and know that’s what will help them blossom when the time is right for them.”
That’s why, at New Westminster Schools, we expect every child to show up on the first day of school with different physical, emotional, social and mental development levels and interests. And we’ll work with every student to help them grow, starting from wherever they start with us.
But while differences are normal and expected, there are also some common baselines that can help when it comes to the practical side of making the transition into kindergarten successful. Here are some things to think about and try through the summer that may help your child in September:
Looking after their basic needs:
- Consider this: can your child handle all their toileting needs and zip up their clothing after going to the bathroom? If not, start practicing with them now.
- Have some fun putting lunches in containers that will be used for school in the fall. See if your child is able to open and close containers, and put things back in their lunch kits … whether that’s for a picnic in the park or some trial runs at your kitchen table.
- Knowing how to do up their coats and tie shoes is pretty great, but don’t worry if they can’t do that when they first start Kindergarten. Our amazing teachers and other staff at the schools can help teach them if they need a little extra help!
Building a love for words and communication:
- Read books with your child. A lap and a book can be one of the best ways to connect, dream and play. Visiting the library and thrift stores are great ways to add to your book collection. And, when your child wants you to read the same book over and over again, do it! Children gain new meaning each time they hear it (even if it is painful for the grown ups)!
- Support your child’s growing vocabulary by teaching them feeling words. It is really helpful when children are able to articulate how they are feeling and why. Books like “The Color Monster” by Anna Llenas and “The Feelings Book” by Todd Parr are wonderful picture books that can build our emotional vocabulary.
- Your child does NOT need to come knowing their alphabet or how to read. We’ll work on that with them, and alongside you, throughout the year. But it can help kids find their things in a classroom if they can recognize their first name. Try focusing on identifying the first and last letters, if this is something new for them.
Comfort and rest:
- Take a trip to play on the school playground or field this summer … help your little ones build a little familiarity with the space by experiencing it in fun ways with you first. And while you’re there, drop in little comments about the friends they’ll soon make and get to play with too.
- Routines are important. Help ensure your child gets plenty of rest. A few weeks before school begins, have your child go to bed a bit earlier. If you’re like many of us who have let those rules slide over the summer, the earlier bedtime and wake up time can really help make the transition all that much easier on them (and you).
According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, children between the ages of 5-13 should get between 9-11 hours of sleep each night.
End of the day though, it’s the approach that you and other role models in their life take that will likely make the biggest difference. As Tanis was quick to remind us: “The most important thing you can do as a caregiver is to speak about school in a positive way, so as to not create stress and anxiety around this time of transition. Kids take their cues from those around them. If caregivers are stressed, children will learn to be too. And while it might be totally appropriate to acknowledge the stress or worry kids have around “the unknown” and the change represented in this new beginning, as that is a very natural reaction to have, try to avoid mirroring or amplifying that emotional reaction. Instead, if you use your words and actions to model a sense of excitement, assurance and opportunity, they’ll pick up on that.”