Leaving the comfortable cocoon of home and taking that first big step into the outside world can be a big, and often traumatic, event for a first-time kindergartener or pre-K’er. While some children begin showing signs of an interest in school in advance of the big day, it's not necessarily always the case with all preschoolers. Some will have a comfort level with some of the new disciplines they’ll be facing, but to others, it will be a shockingly new experience. There are, however, ways you can prepare your children to help them transition into the exciting and wonderful experience that awaits them.
“It’s my turn!” Many of the difficulties children face in this new environment may relate to socializing with other children. If they haven’t become used to what can be a wholly new concept of taking turns with friends or siblings, you can help ready your child through such basic activities as playing board games. Because one of the standard dynamics of most board games is taking turns, getting a child used to this simple concept can help make their integration into groups a lot easier.
“Sleep? Now?” If necessary, get children on the school-day sleep and wake-up schedule ahead of time. If they’re not used to getting up, getting dressed and eating breakfast that early in the morning, it can be very disturbing and make the first days unpleasant for everyone. By doing a run-though ahead of time, you can encourage the child to participate in the planning, from deciding where to lay out their clothes the night before to setting the breakfast table before bed.
“But I’m hungry!” Practice lunch. If bringing their own lunch, let them get used to going through and opening the containers, as well as understanding what parts of the kit to discard and what to repack and take home. If the child will be going through the lunch line, get out a couple of trays and “play” lunch line at home. You could even make a special visit to a cafeteria and talk about how the lunch line at school will compare. Most important, let these experiences be light, fun and anxiety-free.
“Where are we?” Make a dry run to show them the school in advance of the first day. Show them where they’ll be let off from the bus or car pool and where they’ll be picked up. If your school has an orientation, it’s the perfect opportunity to walk them to their class, show them the rest rooms, lunchrooms, recess and play areas and all the facilities they’re likely to use during the day. If there’s no orientation, make your own. Plan a play date for your child with a slightly older friend who already attends the school. Let them draw pictures related to going to school. Not only will you discover what concerns your child has, you’ll both learn a lot about the school from the more experienced child. It’s a win-win.
We are well aware that every child is different. These suggestions may not be necessary or even beneficial for all children. You have to think about what your child needs and go with your gut. In addition, there are lots of techniques we haven’t heard yet. As we come across more, we'll be sure to post them. We hope you’ll do the same by sharing your own ideas down below.
Here’s to a great new school year for all!
Chief Imagination Officer