The summer before kindergarten is a bittersweet time of transition that can present parents with fond memories of their child’s babyhood while anticipating the excitement of the school years to come. At times this passage comes with worries about a child’s readiness for school and what can be done to support a new kindergartner’s upcoming transition. The good news is that there are extremely workable things parents can do make the start of school more effective, setting the child up for long-term success.
This is the third in my four-part series of simple things you can do this summer to help ensure the success of your child’s transition to kindergarten.
Family Routine Prepares for Classroom Structure
Children benefit tremendously from consistency and routine. When routines are successfully established, children know what to expect and feel more relaxed as a result. Predictable expectations provide a foundational structure which frees children to focus on learning. Established routines also allow children to develop skills that are necessary for success in school. Providing your child with consistent routines models the development of organized habits and executive functioning.
• Create a mealtime routine
If you haven’t already established a family mealtime routine, now is the perfect time. These days, many of us eat on the run and young children are no exception. Preschoolers eat food when they’re on the go or they are fed while playing and moving around the kitchen. Even when young children are required to sit at a table with adults, such as when they are at a restaurant, many eat while looking at an iPad or a phone.
The summer before kindergarten is a great time to start to develop the expectation for your child to remain seated at the table while engaging in the natural give and take of conversation with others. Follow these steps to create a successful and enjoyable mealtime with your family:
If this is an entirely new experience for your child, don’t expect him stay seated and focused for the entire meal. Start out with a brief expectation of just a few minutes.
Make sure to engage in conversation that is interesting to your child by discussing a topic that he is passionate about.
As the summer progresses, the expectation for your child can grow. Gradually increase the number of minutes that your child remains at the table.
Slowly expand the conversation to include topics that others are interested in as well, all while giving your child the opportunity to contribute.
Mealtime expectations such as remaining seated and engaging in the give and take of conversation allow future kindergartners to develop the skills that will prepare them to remain seated in the classroom for an extended period of time as well as focus on instruction or conversation that may not be of primary interest to them but is important to their learning nonetheless.
• Establish a bedtime
With its long days and children playing outside until dark, summer is not necessarily the best time to try to set a consistent bedtime for a future kindergartner. But if your child has grown up going to bed on the later side and has struggled to wake up in the morning resulting in late arrivals at preschool or day care, it’s important to use the weeks leading up to the start of school to establish a successful bedtime routine. The first weeks of kindergarten are exhausting no matter how well prepared your child is. You can get your child started on the right foot by very gradually move bedtime earlier so that by the time school is starting, your new kindergartner is able to wake up ready for a very full day of learning new routines, making friends, and generally stepping outside the comfort zone. Many children are set up for difficulty simply by going to bed too late, waking up tired, and arriving at school tardy and not fully ready for the day. Remember, children still need much more sleep than adults do. Make sure your future kindergartner is getting a full ten hours sleep every night.
Creating and sticking with consistent, predictable routines is one of the very best ways that you can set your child up for success in school. It isn’t always easy to get routines established, but the investment is absolutely worth it for your child—and for you.
You can find previous posts in this series on my website. More posts will be coming soon. Subscribe to my blog to get updates about how you can support your child’s transition to kindergarten and much more!