When we think of going into the “preparation mode” as that first day of kindergarten approaches, the two areas we most focus on are the academic and the emotional. If your little one has conquered shapes, colors, counting and basic vocabulary, these are some of the academic skills that she should have as she heads off for that first day of formal school. You may have given her some home school or even preschool exposure to get those skills in place and all of that was good preparation for this big day.
From an emotional and social point of view, the big change from staying home with mom every day to being in an institutionalized setting is one that your child will cope with better with some preparation. So letting her meet the teacher, the other students, sit in on one day with you there and then have time to role play or talk through what it will be like all will be very helpful at reducing that feeling of disorientation that your kiddo may experience the first day at school.
But there are other areas of competency that you would do well to gauge in your child as she prepares for a day without you there to do everything for her. And if you start developing those check lists in the last full year before kindergarten, you have time to help your baby develop those skills well in advance. For example, when your child goes to lunch at school, she will probably go through a line to get her food, find a table on her own to sit with relative strangers to eat and have to get through meal time without guidance or encouragement. You can give her some of those experiences by eating at buffets where you let her handle her own tray and even pick the table and “be a big girl” by making all of the decisions.
The more independent your child becomes in that last few months before kindergarten, the more that feeling of self reliance will pay off when school starts. Being able to dress and undress herself is a basic skill that we work on with our children. And while this will not be necessary at school, there may be times when your child needs to go to the bathroom to adjust his or her wardrobe. And not having to have a teacher there with him will make this a much smoother operation.
The basics of being able to perform simple student tasks such as how to hold a writing implement, how to draw the basic shapes, how to color a picture and how to answer questions from the teacher without mumbling are things that can be worked on well before the first day at kindergarten that will make that transition much smoother for your child and for the teacher as well.
There are also mental or intellectual talents that your child can pick up just from being part of your family but they will be of great advantage in school. This includes being able to listen and understand a story and then ask intelligent questions about it, being able to understand humor and even make simple and appropriate jokes when the time is right in class and knowing the fundamentals of alphabet, numbers and vocabulary that will equip the child to start the curriculum at kindergarten without need for remedial help.
Observe and help your child develop the simple social skills of being able to enter a room and meet new people, understanding authority and rules and learning to live with them and making friends and identifying and avoiding problem personalities in class. These are skills that will go a long way toward facilitating a happy social life at school and learning to stay out of trouble which is a lifetime skill your kiddo will need throughout a long school career.
By thinking through not only the academic but the physical, hygiene, social, language and logical skills that are sometimes taken for granted, you cut down on the surprises that wait for your child on that first day at school. And the smoother that first day goes, the better her entire year at kindergarten will go which will lead to a happy and creative attitude toward school and education for life.