As the summer progresses, so do thoughts of the start of the school year. Children begin to think about their new teacher and what they might wear on the first day of school. Parents also begin to think about the new school year. For many prospective kindergarten parents, this can come in the form of anxiety about whether their child is ready for the start of school. Luckily, there are several concrete things a parent can do to fortify their child with skills necessary for a successful transition to kindergarten.
This is the last 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.
Independence Fosters Classroom Success
• Increase responsibility for belongings
Your kindergartner will soon be taking responsibility for himself throughout the day. Whether putting away his backpack, getting his lunch, keeping track of papers to bring home, or organizing his learning materials, your future kindergartner will likely be doing more for himself than ever before. If being responsible for belongings is new for your child, developing independence this summer will be essential for his sense of success in kindergarten.
Start with small tasks such as putting on shoes and being responsible for clearing the dinner plate from the table.
As the summer progresses, gradually increase responsibilities to helping carry items in from the car or assisting with packing a bag for a weekend getaway.
Begin to provide age-appropriate logical consequences for not following through. For example, if your child forgets to bring his towel to the pool, don’t provide an alternate or run back to the car to get it. Getting by without a towel once or twice will help your child experience the result of forgetting which will help him to be more likely to remember the next time.
When the school year starts, work together with your child to organize his backpack and teach him how to pack his belongings. The irony of backpacks is that many kindergartners actually carry their backpacks-and all the materials that belong inside it-in their hands! Be explicit with your child about how to use his backpack. Teachers know children are more ready for kindergarten when they’re carrying and managing their backpacks themselves!
• Establish confidence in the bathroom
There’s usually a kindergartner or two in each classroom who hasn’t yet reached complete independence with using the bathroom. If your child is still working on developing independence in this area, the good news is that in the world of kindergartners he is not alone. On the other hand, his transition to kindergarten will be significantly better if he’s confidently self-sufficient. Because a lack of independence in the bathroom doesn’t always pose a problem at home, parents don’t necessarily recognize potential difficulties. Challenges that new kindergartners can sometimes experience in the bathroom are:
fear of using an unfamiliar toilet
preferring to use the toilet with the door open
difficulty cleaning oneself following a bowel movement
ensuring proper aim when urinating
You can have a significant, positive impact on your child’s transition to kindergarten if you work to develop confidence in bathroom skills during the summer, but be careful to avoid putting on the pressure which can ultimately be extremely counterproductive and create anxiety about the start of the school year. Instead of saying, “you need to do this for kindergarten,” guide your child gently toward self-sufficiency.
If you’re having trouble seeing results, experiment with a vey small reward. A tiny treat could do the trick. Or your child could get a sticker each time he cleans himself after using the toilet. The stickers could accumulate toward doing a special activity with you. If you’re using this type of reward system, make sure to help your child experience success quickly which helps with motivation. Be careful to avoid the trap of making the goal too hard to achieve which leads to a sense of failure or children not even wanting to try.
It’s important to keep in mind that the developmental continuum for typical kindergartners is large and teachers expect their new students to have a wide range of skill levels in all areas. When you bring your child to kindergarten on the first day, try not to worry too much. Instead, take a photo and savor the first of many wonderful milestones in your child’s education. You’ve done a great job of getting your child started on the right foot!