Thanks to the many readers who shared their ideas for preparing their children for kindergarten.
Here are some of their suggestions:
Teach the basic skills
Help your child practice spelling her name, tying her shoes.
“I am doing all that I can do to prepare my child for school,” an Alabama mother of a future kindergartner writes. “I want her to know how to spell her name, tie her own shoes, go to the bathroom and defend herself on her own.”
Play “school” at home.
“Help your child practice spelling her name,” another parent suggests. “Make sure she knows the alphabet and numbers 1-20 (by sight and by writing them down). Play ‘school’ so that your child will know how to properly behave in class.”
Practice on car trips.
“My son and I have about a 30-minute ride to and from daycare,” writes the mom of a soon-to-be kindergartner. “I bought a Magna Doodle for the car and we practice writing our letters. He copies words out of books or magazines. He practices letters and is learning to read.”
Use workbooks to reinforce skills.
Workbooks are a popular kindergarten prep suggestion. A New Jersey mom shares, “My son loves the workbooks you can buy at almost any store. They have draw by numbers and color by numbers, what doesn’t belong in the pictures and finding items in pictures.”
Try math with Cheerios.
“My daughter is really excited to go to school,” writes the mom of a 5-year-old in Illinois. “So, I make the most of this energy. I work with her preschool teacher to improve her handwriting…. My daughter now writes very neatly (except the occasional confusion with b, d, 9, P….) For math, I use Cheerios, to revise her counting and introduce the concept of addition and subtraction…. We try to teach about safety too, including how to cross the road, no opening doors, and no talking to strangers. We teach her the importance of discipline and respect for teachers.”
Introduce your child to the new environment
Visit school events.
“My first is starting kindergarten this fall,” says a mom from Wisconsin. “He will be young for his class, but I think he is ready. The most difficult thing will be meeting new people and getting comfortable in his new environment. So in an effort to make this easier, we have visited the school for community functions and walked around the school. I am planning to take him to lunch at the school sometime this spring so he can get an idea of what the lunch hour is like. I am also going to contact the principal to see if we can schedule a visit during the day so that he can get an even better idea of his school day. Maybe it will also help me feel a little more comfortable sending my first child off to school!”
Visit the classroom.
Another parent has several suggestions for adjusting to the new situation: “We have visited the kindergarten at the school my daughter will attend. She visited for about an hour – she entered the room as the other kids did and then stayed with the class, without parents for about an hour. We were in the office, so if she got scared we could come right away. She loved the visit and can’t wait to go back…. We also talk about how kindergarten will be different – you call teachers by their last names – and the same – you will have circle time. Of course, this meant we visited the school to find this out so we don’t tell her the wrong information! We also have several books about the first day of kindergarten and kindergarten in general. We read those periodically and talk about what she thinks she’ll like best.”
Set realistic expectations.
It is important to build realistic expectations about kindergarten, notes the Oregon mom of a kindergartner. She writes, “One thing that we discovered too late is that kindergarten is not all ‘fun.’ There are lots of new rules to follow and lots of information to learn and our son was truly disappointed because he wasn’t having fun every moment of every day…. I found that when I shifted the emphasis from ‘what was fun today?’ to ‘what did you learn today?’ there was a subtle shift in his expectation of school.”
Celebrate your child’s landmark
Continue a family tradition – or create one of your own.
Two readers described the European tradition of a “schultuete” that made the start of school special. “Coming from Germany, I keep the custom I grew up with. I craft together with my child a schultuete (schoolcone),” writes one parent. “For the first day I fill it with some candy, healthy snacks, erasers, small books, colored pencils and crayons. After school the child gets to open her schultuete and is very excited about all the presents. Also before the first day I showed my child pictures of my husband and me on our first day of school with our schultuete.” You can see pictures of schultuete here.