A preschool child takes his or her signals from people around them, and most of the times that is mom and dad. In almost every situation, the child watches you to see if this is a good time to laugh, to cry, to pray, to be serious or to be afraid. Just watch your little one when you are out in an unfamiliar situation. Her little eyes will be glued to you and when you react a certain way, she will immediately react that way too.
So the influence you have on your child’s attitude about her first year at school will be driven to a very large extent by your attitude. If you are nervous or anxious about this big step, your child will go into the first days in kindergarten tense and serious too.
Of course, you know the importance of shaping your child’s attitude toward school. You want them to take school seriously. In a strange way, in order to get your child interested in school, especially in this important first year, you have to lift the pressure and speak of them about kindergarten in their own.
And the orientation of any child in the months leading up to kindergarten can be sized up in one word – fun. We often underplay the importance of fun and even scoff at how much value a child places on fun even in going to school. “Fun” is a code word for a child. It means more than just a child’s desire to play in a frivolous way. In other contexts, “fun” means the child wants to be engaged, challenged, become part of a process, loved, feel safe and feel joy about what he or she is doing. So when a child complains that something “isn’t fun”, it might just mean that the activity is frightening or fails to connect to them on their own terms.
Learning to listen to your child is a big step in helping them get ready for all of life’s challenges including this big step into kindergarten. So the more you can do to make their first days in kindergarten fun will be of tremendous value in helping your child want to go to school and overcome their feelings of anxiety and stress about doing something new and a little scary.
The best way to make kindergarten fun for your child is for you to have fun getting her ready for the event. The process of buying new clothes and school supplies can be great fun for parent and child so if you take your little one with you and let him or her make choices about those new clothes, about the kind of notebook they will take and about their lunch pail or carrier, those things will have special meaning to them and the child will be excited to put them to work.
Talk up the fun your child is going to have at kindergarten. By emphasizing that they will get to play lots of games and make lots of new friends at school, they will take that clue from you and go into the new experience looking for new friends.
The more engaged you are in your child’s school experience, the more he or she will see this as a big adventure and go off in the spirit of joy and fun to “discover the world” because they know mom and dad will be waiting eagerly at home to hear all about their big day.
Giving your child the spirit of fun and adventure about going to school is probably the best gift you can give her and the best way you can prepare your little one to take on the challenges of school. And if your new student goes into school looking at it as a big fun outing, each new assignment will be taken on with creativity, mental energy and personality and that will naturally give her success in everything she does at school. And as success leads to more success, before long you will have a child that loves school and goes there with energy and enthusiasm throughout kindergarten and on into first grade and up and up in the latter of success in the academic world.