Parents, we all know that kindergarten is great. What could be more fun than crayons and snacks and paints? But if your child is starting kindergarten this year, you've probably heard lots of questions and maybe even a little bit of worry, too. Little as they may seem to grown ups, those kindergarten rooms are usually enormous to brand new kindergarteners, and sometimes it all can seem a little scary.
Here's an activity for your new kindergartener that will help prepare him for his first day of school and the exciting year to come!
What You Do:
- On your local map, find the route from your house to your child's new school, from school to after school care if applicable, and then to home again. You and your child can do this together.
- Using the map as a guide, help your kindergartener draw the route onto your 11x17” page. As you go, have your child paste on the pictures of your house, school, and after school care where they belong. (Note: don't worry about being too exact! Rough scale is just fine for kids at this stage and if you need to cut some of the pictures too, go ahead.)
- Invite your child to place a finger on the picture of your house, and then move that finger along the route to school. Talk, talk, and talk some more as you go, about how you'll get from one place to another, who will be along, and where you're going. Do the same thing when you get to the school and to after school care, and be sure to leave plenty of time for any questions he may have.
- Once you've talked through the day, don't neglect a crucial final phase: move that finger right back home to where you started, and keep talking as you go! The is one of most important parts of the discussion for your kindergartener. At this age, many kids have trouble understanding that kindergarten is just a part of the day, and that home sweet home will be waiting for them when they're done! This is often a very reassuring thing to know.
- Note: If your child seems particularly worried about all that comes with kindergarten, consider taking pictures of your child with you at home, and with the teacher, in the classroom, or with special caretakers he'll be meeting. Have him place each one in its appropriate spot on the map, and use it as yet another reminder that in each place, your child will be safe and happy…and that at the end of the day you will always be there.
Plan to repeat this activity several times, both as you prepare your child for kindergarten and in the first few weeks of school. For many kids, the first “trips” along the map will be full of questions, but as time goes on, parents should be prepared for a happy change of roles, as kids become more and more “expert” in this big new world they've entered. Especially in the first few months of school, they'll have lots to tell you, and you'll have lots of reasons to applaud.
Julie Williams, M.A. Education, taught middle and high school history and English for seventeen years. Since then, she has volunteered in elementary classrooms while raising her two sons and earning a master's in school administration. She has also been a leader in her local PTA.