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Sitting in the hallway at school today I was thinking about the parent side of Kindergarten. It was especially paramount in my mind because I was registering my own daughter for school. As she was being assessed for her academic skills, I began thinking about the other things that she should know to enter school. As a Kindergarten teacher myself, I thought about what would help students if academics are not their strongest at the beginning of the year. Here are some tips for helping your child be prepared for their first school experiences.
Sitting- Don't laugh. The ability for a child to sit for about 10-15 minutes is at the top of my list for physical abilities. So many students that come in struggling academically, are not able to sit and listen to a story or lesson. Now in Kindergarten we do NOT have any expectations that they can sit for an hour. Most adults don't do that so how can you expect a 5 year old to sit that long? If they can sit, even for 5-10 minutes, they can learn.
Independence- Your child should be able to open up their crayons, take off their jacket, and hang up their backpack. Your child will be assisted through out the day. But them being able to do some of the small things is ESSENTIAL! For example, going to the bathroom. It happens more than when they are just at home. You child should be able to do everything in the bathroom that they need to do themselves. We as teachers are not allowed to help them in anyway. I can pretty much stand outside the door and kind of talk them through what they need to do. But anything else, I'm setting myself up for a lawsuit.
Eating- Again, I'm not kidding you. Your child should be able to feed themselves when they come to Kindergarten. Plus, (I say this nicely) if you come to eat with your child at school, do NOT pick your child up, put them on your lap, and feed them their lunch bite by bite. Honest, I've seen it more than once. It embarrasses your child and will embarrass you too. Your child should be able to make a choice of food (if buying at school), open containers (especially if bringing from home), and eat while sitting down.
Playing- Recess time and centers are about learning too. When your child is playing, they should be able to use their imagination, self entertain, and play safely on equipment. How do you help them do this? Let them play. Take them outside or to a park and let them create, get dirty, and practice being a kid. Right after parents ask me at conferences if their child is reading, their second question is always about if they have friends. Letting them play now will help them build friendships later on.
If your child can do these things, they will have an awesome start to their school year. They will be able to learn because they will be able to pay attention (sitting for short periods of time), feel success (independence), and spend time with their peers (eating at snack/lunch or playing at recess).