Oh, fall, how I love you. Cooler weather, apple picking, beautiful leaves, and back-to-school time! Sure, I’ll miss the beach and the (sort of) lazy days, but I welcome the routine and rhythm of the school year. When I was a full-time teacher, I felt such a mix of excitement and nervousness at the end of August, and I’m watching my kids feel that same way now.
So how do I prepare them for the school year? As a teacher and mom, I’d like to offer some tips for getting kids kindergarten ready.
Read All About It!
Books are a great way to start getting kids kindergarten ready by opening up discussions about feelings, and introducing what school might be like for them. This might very well be your child’s first time away from home for a significant period of time and you both might be nervous about what that will entail. It makes sense to talk about this transition beforehand, and many kids find it comforting to see familiar characters going through the same feelings and changes they might be feeling too.
Here are some of my favorites:
- Ally-Saurus and the First Day of School by Richard Torrey is all about a dinosaur-loving girl and how she fits in on her first day of school. This is a good one for opening up the topic of making friends, being kind, and staying true to you.
- Goodbye Brings Hello: A Book Of Firsts by Dianne White and Daniel Wiseman is one of my favorites for any transition times. It is such a simple book that shows how things are always changing and making way for wonderful new things.
- The Queen of Kindergarten and The King Of Kindergarten both by Derrick Barnes and Vanessa Brantley-Newton. These books are fantastic, showing how kindergarten is a royally good time!
- Mae’s First Day of School by Kate Berube is a cute book about Mae, who refuses to go to school. But then she meets some unlikely friends who are also refusing to go to school and together they realize that it might be okay after all.
- The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson and Rafael Lopez is a beautiful book that helps children see the value in expressing themselves and connecting with others.
- Hello School! by Priscilla Burris is a sweet choice that doesn’t bring up any fears or nervousness, just shows soon-to-be kindergarteners (and preschoolers) the joy of the classroom.
Choose Your Own
Having kids pick out their own backpack, lunch box/lunch foods, first-day outfit, or whatever you can allow them to decide will help them garner their excitement. You can also have them help make lunch with you the night before or pack up their new backpack with whatever they need for the first day. Anything you can do to include them in preparations can go a long way in empowering them. And I know a new unicorn backpack and purple lunch box will go a long way to making my daughter’s first day feel special!
Some schools will have an open house or a welcome event before school starts but just getting to see the building (and the playground!) can ease your child’s nerves. It’s even better if you can play on the playground and/or take a walk around the grounds! Look the school up online too, and see if there are pictures of their classroom or smiling faces on the website. You might find a photo of their teacher or the school principal. This is one of my favorite ways of getting kids kindergarten ready.
Teachers love when everything your child brings to school is clearly labeled. Kids love creating labels and then helping stick them on all of their things so they feel that ownership. They can also make a personalized “first-day” sign that you can do a whole photoshoot with… and if you are like me, you’ll have to do it after school as well to get one picture where your kids are actually smiling.
Talk It Out
Talk about their feelings openly. Ask them how they feel and don’t forget to validate them! Instead of, “there’s nothing to be nervous about” you can try to say things like “It’s okay to feel nervous. I get nervous too! What are you nervous about?” It’s often our first instinct as parents to want to put a positive spin on everything, “don’t worry, you’ll love school!”, but talking openly about their worries and being heard and honored validates their experience and helps to address any causes for nervousness. If you get stuck, find a good book that can help, like First Day Critter Jitters by Jory John and read about how everyone feels a little nervous, even teachers!
First Day Critter Jitters is such a fun choice that can help families talk more about those first-day jitters and how everyone has some, even teachers!
Plan your morning routine and practice it the day before school. If you can swing it, take pictures of each step and post them in your house as a visual schedule for the days ahead. You can even plan out your morning goodbye routine by asking your child what they would like to do, maybe two kisses and a hug? A high five or a special handshake? Just something quick and sweet to get the day started with love.
Will you cry as you watch your child head off to kindergarten? Probably. I know I did! But I waited until he was out of sight and then spent my morning going from crying to overindulging in chocolate for a momentary respite from tears. It’s okay to let them know how you feel, but it’s also important to keep your goodbye quick and painless. It’s like ripping off a bandage, the faster you do it the less painful it is for them! As a teacher, I can attest to the fact that children will stop crying soon after their adult is out of sight, so keeping the goodbye short and sweet helps them ease into their day.
The first day is a big one, and it can be hard to get your kids–and yourself!–emotionally, mentally, and physically kindergarten ready. I mean, how do you find a backpack big enough to fit all the things they need but small enough that they can carry it without toppling over without crying because now they look SO BIG? Starting kindergarten unleashes such a rush of emotions and the time just seems to fly even faster once the first day is done, if that’s possible.
So, hug them tight, enjoy your last days of summer, and hopefully, these tips for getting kids kindergarten ready will help make it a little easier. Oh, and get those tissues and chocolates ready! You’re going to need them.
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