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Your child's transition to kindergarten is a huge milestone, and getting trickier every year. You know he's expected to recognize colors and shapes, count to 10 and go to the bathroom on his own. But what about those things that aren't so obvious? Ensure your kid's top of the class with these little-known facts and other things no one told you about kindergarten.
Many kindergarteners lack social skills. It's important to expose your child to other kids his age before he starts kindergarten. Provide plenty of opportunities to socialize by having playdates or by taking him to the playground. Many libraries offer free activities for toddlers and this is a golden opportunity to meet other kids in the neighborhood. "Parents should help students develop communication and social skills," says Pauline Palladino, an elementary school teacher in Torrington, Connecticut. "These skills will help a student acquire knowledge, share their acquired knowledge, express their feelings, make inquiries, and interact with adults as well as peers. When students come to kindergarten with good social and communication skills, they can focus on the task of learning."
Teach your child to tie his shoes. Ask any kindergarten teacher, and they'll probably tell you it's their dream to have students who all know how to tie their shoes. When a teacher has a class full of 20 kids tripping over their shoelaces, it can be extremely helpful when one of those kids has mastered the art of the tie. Not only will that student be a big help for his teacher, his friends will be impressed as well.
Don't Forget the Basics
You might be so caught up with teaching ABC's and numbers that you might forget the basics. It's important that your kid knows his full name, your name, and if possible, his address and phone number. You never know when he might be separated from his class and need this information. Although it can be difficult to teach a kindergartener his address and phone number, be persistent, make it fun and find creative ways for him to remember.
Avoid yes-and-no questions. When your little one steps off the bus, the first question that wants to escape your lips is, "How was your day?" Ask this and you'll probably just get, "Good." As parents, we're dying to hear about their friends, what they learned and what they liked best. A good trick to find out how your child's day at school is to ask open-ended questions such as, "Who did you play with today?" or "What was your favorite activity?" Talking regularly will not only help you get a glimpse into his day, but will help him learn and understand ways to express himself.
Take a Tour
It can be scary heading to a new place. Your kid is probably wondering, "Do they have a bathroom there?" or "Where will I eat?" Before the first day of school, bring your kid for a tour of the school and his classroom. Show him the bathroom, water fountain, playground and front office, so he knows where everything is. This will help calm his anxiety and ease the transition.
Avoid the Hype
Kindergarten is a big milestone and it's easy for parents to talk it up too much by saying "Are you excited for kindergarten?" or "This is such a big step for you!" Although it's great to talk about school, you don't want to hype up kindergarten so much that you make him fearful. Instead, talk about the things he will do in kindergarten and help him see that it's things he's already mastered at home.
The number one thing you can do to get your child ready for school is to read together each night for at least 15 minutes. Teachers say they can tell the difference between a child who has been read to and one who has not. Reading aloud each night helps your child build his vocabulary, practice listening skills and aids with focus and imagination.
Calm and Collected
You're probably so concerned about how your child will react on the first day of school, you don't take the time to think about your own emotions. You're probably nervous and excited and might even want to bawl your eyes out as you give him that last kiss. However, do your best to contain your tears until after you send him off. If you set a calm mood, chances are he'll follow your lead.
"Be an active participant in your child's education by asking him about his day, checking his backpack daily for home/school communication and attending parent-teacher conferences and school activities," says Palladino. "Work with your child's teacher to assure the best possible educational experience for your child. Share any concerns about your child with his teacher as needed, as well as listen to teacher concerns. Let your student know that you value education. Students whose parents are actively involved in their education achieve greater success."
Most parents think their kid will be nervous about heading to kindergarten, so you prepare yourself for that dreaded meltdown. However, you're shocked when he holds his head high and says, "Bye, Mom!" without a care. No one tells you your child might actually like kindergarten and is more than ready. If this happens, don't take it personally. Instead be proud of his independence and how much he's grown.