Getting ready for any new adventure can be challenging, especially when it is a momentous occasion like the first day of grade school. Most of us remember our first day; stepping onto the bus with feelings of anticipation, nervousness, excitement and even fear. So, why not make this important transition a little smoother on not only the child, but the parent as well? Even if you’re a seasoned professional, there are some tips I’d like to offer (as a Kindergarten teacher) that may keep your child on track during their academic career.
I’d like to start out by saying, “Keep it simple!” Nowadays, parents are inundated with new techniques in learning, special toys, expensive videos and technology aides, etc. I say as long as you are active and consistent in your child’s development, they will survive! Children with academic and developmental needs will have different approaches, but as long as you follow the appropriate guidelines and enjoy yourselves, they will be okay.
Now, the first tip I like to give to parents with children entering Kindergarten is READ to them. Read, read and then read a little more. I cannot stress the importance of literacy at a young age. It is tough as a teacher, to watch students who are behind the other students because they aren’t familiar with simple concepts of print. Anytime is a great time to read, and to make it more exciting for your child, allow them ‘to read’ to you every once in a while. Oh, and please don’t correct them if the story is a little off. You want to make reading a positive experience, so remember to let their imaginations take over!!
My next tip in preparing your child for their Kindergarten experience is allowing them to get more involved in their own learning, especially regarding writing. More and more I see students entering into the classroom environment worrying if they are correct, or too afraid to try because their parents always did everything for them, this is unfortunate! Give your child some crayons and let them go crazy! While you are making dinner or cleaning, ask your child to sit down and draw or write. Scribbling is a form of writing, so again, please do not correct your child’s work; encourage creativity. The only time I encourage parents to help their child learn how to write a word in a more traditional form of writing, is when they are learning to write their name (which teachers love to see on the first day of school).
My third tip, is preparing your child for a structured environment. Although I see instances where students have been so restricted, that they have a tough time ‘letting loose’. Howevever, I see more students who been given free reign over their home environment. As a teacher, let me tell you that this not only makes for a difficult and disruptive learning environment, but it could even hold your child back from learning. Kindergarten may seem like a simple day of playing, learning the ABC’s and drawing. There is a method to a Kindergarten teacher’s madness and each activity has a purpose. When those activities are disrupted because Johnny doesn’t want to clean up the blocks he played with during “Free Choice”, or Suzy doesn’t understand why she has to listen to the teacher when asked to not talk during the “Read Aloud”, it not only takes time away from the other students, but prohibits the larger life lesson in self-accountability. So, go ahead and say “No” to your child when they need to hear it. Trust me, they will survive.
Finally, I’d like to share some things with you that most teachers would like their students’ parents to know, but may not feel comfortable or even be at liberty to say to parents. Firstly, get involved in the classroom activities, because what kid doesn’t like to watch one of their parents walk through the classroom door to help the teacher with a project? Next, listen to what the teacher has to say and trust that although you may know what’s best for your child, they may know a thing or two as well. I can’t tell you how difficult it was to watch one of my students struggle through first and second grade, because his parents thought that retaining him in Kindergarten was unnecessary. It is much easier to hold a child back in Kindergarten than doing it after several years of bonding with classmates. Lastly, the social development that takes place at this grade level is sometimes underestimated, but is such a large part of the Kindergarten experience. Make play dates with other families, attend school activities and give your child a sense of accountability through cleaning up after themselves and maybe even by helping you cook and clean a little. It may even make the dreaded teen years a little less painful when they already know they have to clean their room before they go out!
Enjoy these years with your child and get them involved in their learning. Ask them to count the apples you put into your grocery cart, or have them measure out a cup of flour during dinner time. Plus, what grandparent (or aunt and uncle) doesn’t like a homemade card for a holiday? Thank you for taking time to listen to the ranting’s of a teacher and remember to not sweat the small stuff and know that everything little action you do has such a big impact in your child’s life!
Nicole Matregrano is from Limerick, PA and holds a Masters in Education fom Temple University and is departing in August to teach English at a school in Abu Dhabi.