You can prepare your child for kindergarten by practicing the academic-readiness skills expected of young students as well as helping him emotionally and socially, says Nikki Salvatico, a first-grade teacher at General Wayne Elementary School in Malvern, Pa., and the state’s 2005 Teacher of the Year. Here’s what she recommends:
1. Check out the school’s Web site. Share some of the interesting activities and pictures from the Web site with your child.
2. Visit the new school several times over the summer. Often tours are offered by administrators to help familiarize your child with the various places in the school such as the library, classroom, and nurse’s office.
3. Set up playtimes on the school playground. You can do this with some of the other children entering the kindergarten program. This will establish an automatic support system and help your child become familiar with new surroundings.
4. Create a routine at home to help get your child in the habit of following directions. Let your child know, for example, that every day when she comes home from camp or the pool, she should hang up her backpack, put away her belongings, and get packed for the next day.
5. Give your child developmentally appropriate chores at home and hold him accountable for doing them. These could include feeding a pet, putting clothes in the hamper, cleaning up toys, making his bed, or helping to bring in the groceries. These types of activities will transfer over into the classroom and help your child feel successful and comfortable.
6. Try to meet the teacher before school starts. You may be able to spend some time in the classroom to orient your child to her new surroundings.
7. Set up a few playdates or a parent and kindergartner luncheon to meet new friends. Invite fellow kindergartners in the neighborhood or ask at the school if you can have a list of phone numbers of other families who will be attending the school.
8. Establish a “goodbye routine” with your child. You can practice the routine when you leave to go to the store or when you have a babysitter. This will help your child know you are coming back and make saying goodbye on the first day of school easier for everyone. For example: Hug. Kiss. Say bye-bye. “I will see you at 11:30 when you get off the bus and school is over! Have a great day!” Then walk away and take a deep breath knowing that your child is in good hands.
9. Take pictures of the teacher, the classroom, the playground, the office and the front of the building. Make a book or poster with labels that you can read with your child to him to talk through any anxiety.
10. Read stories relating to the first day of school and school jitters. Reading about the experience of others will help your child feel less fearful about what’s ahead.