Preparing Your Child for Kindergarten

Last February I registered my firstborn for kindergarten. It was a very bittersweet moment – I wasn’t sure if Akshaya would be ready by September and I was scared and excited for her at the same time. Full-time kindergarten sounded like too much for a child her age. She was born in December of 2010 but was due in January of 2011 and I couldn’t help but think, had she been born on time she could have waited one whole year to start kindergarten. Akshaya also has asthma so I was worried about how she would handle being on her own, in a new environment, without me. To make matters worse, she was not excited about starting school while her younger brother got to stay home with me. I soon came to realize that regardless of what we both thought or what she felt, she was going to start kindergarten in September and all I could do about it was try to make it a bit easier for her.
Kindergarten is definitely not what it used to be when I was growing up! There is a great deal of things that kindergartners are expected to know and expected to learn during the school year from what I have gathered. I think the emphasis on learning rather than just playing is wonderful and would make transitioning to Grade 1 that much easier. My daughter is part of a reading program which started just a month after school began. As part of the program, Akshaya reads two books each week a home, sounds out words using letter sounds, and then reads those two books to her teacher. In January, Akshaya started bringing home a list of six words a week to learn to recognize by sight.
In the last four months, my child has learned about the solar system, machines, length and mass, retelling stories, counting by tens, patterning, 3D shapes, and more. I remember learning most of these topics in Grade 1 and 2. But that was 19 years ago. Sometimes I feel as if Akshaya is bombarded with too much information for a kindergartener but she is doing extremely well and I couldn’t be happier.
To be quite honest, I hadn’t expected Akshaya to transition from home to kindergarten without a fuss so easily. I was pleasantly surprised when she showed me that she was independent and responsible.
To make transitioning into kindergarten a bit easier for your child, you can teach him or her how to:
  •  Put on and take off his or her shoes (Opt for shoes with Velcro rather than laces)
  •  Zip up his or her jacket
  •  Button up his or her jackets and sweater
  •  Share with others
  •  Wait patiently for his or her turn
  •  Tidy up after his or herself
  •  Use the potty by him or herself
  •  Wash his or hands using the following guideline provided by the Lung Association of Canada

  •   Verbalize his or her needs politely
  •   Never to hit, pinch, bite
  •   Drink from a cup
  •   Eat neatly on his or her own

The following is a list of things you can do to prepare your child for kindergarten:

  •       Take your child for an eye exam (If you cannot see, it is very hard to learn)
  •       Visit a dentist (dental screening will be done in school as well)
  •       Make sure your child’s immunization record is up to date
  •       Get your child used to being away from you (If your child isn’t in daycare you can take your child to an extra circular activity. I took my daughter to ballet lessons so she could spend 30min twice a week away from me. She cried for the first two weeks, refused to participate for the next three weeks, and then she loved it. I firmly believe this is the reason that I didn’t have to take her crying to her first day of school.)
  •        Read to your child every night (it encourages their love for reading and learning)
  •        Take your child to the library (many libraries have story time and other programs)
  •       If you live in Ontario, you can take your child to an Ontario Early Years Centre (Visit to learn more about the programs and to find a location near you)
  •        Encourage independence (getting dressed, feeding him or herself, etc.)
  •        Teach your child to count from 1-10 and recognize numbers 1-10
  •      Teach your child how to correctly hold a pencil and write his or her name (My daughter refused to learn to write so she went to school without knowing how to write her name. Since my daughter didn’t even like the idea of going to school, I didn’t want to force her in fear that she might just hate school before it even begun.)
  •       Teach your child to recognize the alphabets (both upper and lower case)
  •       Once your child can recognize the letters, teach them the letter sounds (there are many YouTube videos, educational DVDs, and games that teach letter sounds)
  •      Colours and 2D shapes if they don’t know it already

Keep in mind that each child is different and every child learns differently. Akshaya likes to learn through a hands-on approach so I used flash cards to teach her the alphabets, small objects to teach her how to count, games to teach her letter sounds. Each week we talked about one letter of the alphabet, pointed it out when we saw it on street signs, in stores, on cereal boxes, talked about words that started with that letter, and the letter sound. In my opinion when you make learning feel not like learning, a child is more open to learn and because I am a stay at home mom, I was able to spend a lot of time teaching Akshaya in creative ways. This may seem like a lot to teach your three year old, but you’d be pleasantly surprised at how much and how fast your child can learn, just as I was.

The following is a list of things that you may want to purchase for your child starting kindergarten: 

  • Two pairs of sneakers, both with Velcro (one for indoor use)
  • A full size backpack to carry home library books and artwork
  • An insulated lunchbag plus an ice pack to keep cold foods such as yogurt cold
  • A lunchbox plus a Thermos/insulated container if he/she is staying for lunch
  • Two snackboxes, labelled 1 and 2, for morning and afternoon nutrition break
  • A leak-proof reusable water bottle/flask
  • comfortable, easy to pull on pants such as sweats or tights, especially if he/she cannot yet do up buttons or zippers
  • rainboots and splash pants
  • several pairs of mitts and hats because they do misplace/lose things

Starting school for the very first time is a huge change for your child as well as you. As each child is different, you will not be able to guess how your child reacts on their first day. They may cling to you, cry, and refuse to go, especially if they have a younger sibling staying at home or they may leave eagerly with a quick goodbye. Akshaya’s first day went and week went really well. She was happy and excited and had no trouble whatsoever. The following week was a different story – she decided that she would rather stay home. It took a lot of patience and convincing as well as me leaving her with her teacher and running away for her to adjust that particular week. It is really important that you as a parent learn to let go when necessary, support your child’s independent experience, and trust their teachers to take care of them so that the transition goes smoothly as possible for your child.

Good luck to all the little ones starting kindergarten this year!

Other helpful posts:

My Daughter’s Back to School Picks

Healthy Snack Ideas for Kindergarten Nutrition Break

25 Tips for Packing School Lunches

Building Pre-Math Concepts in Preschoolers (ages 3+)

Teaching Your Child to Write


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