Heading to big kid school

Prepare your child to enter school with confidence

When kids are ready to start school for the first time, they can experience both anxiety and excitement. You buy the school supplies and the new outfit, pack the backpack and take the obligatory pictures. But what can you really do to make the transition easier for your family?

As a parent, be upbeat and positive for your preschooler or kindergartener as he heads to class. Assuring him it will be a fun, important and enjoyable step in life filled with learning can help build confidence.

As the director of SonShine Preschool in Lee’s Summit, Nancy Peace has more than two decades of early childhood education experience and says it’s important to let preschoolers know you will return to pick them up after school. Emphasize that, in the meantime, they will be able to paint, sing, play on the playground and make new friends.

Peace says parents also need reassurance the director and teachers at a preschool will take good care of their children. If parents need peace of mind, she always lets them know they are free to call her during the day and have her check on their child for them. She also advises to make drop-off simple and positive, because lingering around when a child is upset often makes things worse.

Peace believes parents should be hands-on with their child’s academic experience, and this can involve looking through their papers, asking them questions about their day and generally being involved in the school process. When a child begins preschool, he has years of education ahead of him, so it’s important for parents to be excited for the child from the beginning, according to Peace.

Developing a relationship with the teacher and voicing concerns if they arise helps in the school experience as well. Peace says many issues can be resolved simply if a parent speaks up. She also says learning social skills, such as being able to follow the rules, focus and listen, be kind to others, play well with others and use words when frustrated, are extremely important parts of the education process. “If they master those social things, it makes the academic things so much easier,” Peace says.

A child’s having an older sibling who has gone off to school can help the process immensely. If your child is the oldest or only child in the family, having her talk to another friend who has been through the experience can be beneficial.

Greenwood mom Jenny Wilhoit says that before her son started preschool, they toured the facility and met with the director. Seeing his classroom and knowing a familiar face on the first day of school helped his confidence. Additionally, they drove by the preschool facility, talked about how his older cousin was in school and read a few books together about going to school.

“I always find books about new adventures my son might be doing to calm his nerves and let him see the experience through the characters in a book,” Wilhoit says.

Sarah Hardinger, a Lee’s Summit mom and former kindergarten teacher, says parents should recognize that entering kindergarten is significant step in their children’s lives. Hardinger cautions against downplaying it as being simplistic because children are learning to read in kindergarten, as well as gaining other skills that will set the foundation for everything to come in education.

Good diet and enough sleep are practical essentials for kids to be able to perform their best in the classroom, according to Hardinger. Some school districts even offer summer school for children entering kindergarten. Having that early experience at an elementary school can help prepare kids as well.

Perhaps the most important thing you can do to help prepare your children for school is to let them know you believe in them and their ability to succeed.


Becoming Kindergarten Ready

The academic skills required of an incoming kindergartener might vary from school to school and sometimes from year to year. Generally speaking, it’s a good idea for a child to master the following academic milestones before kindergarten:

  • Recognize all the letters and sounds of the letters.
  • Begin differentiating between upper case and lower case letters.
  • Count and recognize numbers up to 20.
  • Recognize colors and shapes.
  • Write one’s name.
  • Hold a pencil properly.
  • Understand basic patterning. 
  • Color, cut and paste.

Although these and other academic skills are important, social and emotional skills and maturity are often equally as essential in having success in the classroom.

Allison Gibeson is a Lee’s Summit mom and writer who is having fun helping prepare her PreK son for his upcoming academic career.

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