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How do you prepare your child for kindergarten?
Depending on what your child was doing before they went to kindergarten, these are some things that could present exciting new challenges for you and your kid:
Coping Without Parents Or Siblings
My kids really enjoyed having a parent, caregiver, or sibling around, so for them, pre-school or kindergarten was a pretty violent change, not only in routine but in learning how to deal with new experiences without the person who was their main point for social interaction and emotional assurance. We saw this coming and made sure they were getting time away from us and from their usual support networks enough that it wasn’t as big of a shock, but it’s still an adjustment.
Listening For And Responding Well To Verbal Direction And Commands
I’ve seen kids who really thrived in a routine at home and were able to successfully model behavior from older siblings or a home care provider without much need for parsing verbal instructions. But in kindergarten, depending on class size, they will mostly get their direction from what teachers say and do and what the other kids are doing. If they’ve had this in pre-school or in some type of shared/social care, this will be old hat, but this seems to be one of the key early transition risks.
Other kids are a mixed bag; some are going to be empathetic and interested in your kid, others are going to be hostile and physically threatening. Mostly teachers will be on top of this anyway, but in most schools you don’t get to pick the other kids. We’ve had situations where there was a problem kid, the teachers and the other parents knew it, and it opened up a dialogue at home about coping skills and good social tools for dealing with it (tell the teacher early, avoid the kid who likes to bite, etc).
In the early years, my kids learned far more from recess than from class time because the unstructured social interactions with kids who were all over the place in terms of their ability and interest in interacting just provides mountains of feedback to a kid that parents and teachers really can’t compete with. Your kid is going to learn more about how to socialize in their hour or so per day of play time than everything they’ve learned up until that point. In talking to my kids about their day, this was always 90 percent of what they wanted to talk about.
Transitions And Independence
Part of what they’re learning now is to make the right decision in little ways, a dozen times a day. Teachers are going to give them opportunities to “choose” to listen, to follow basic instruction, to transition well on their own. Transitions, going from one activity to another, are a challenge for kids this age and depending on how they’re handled at home, this is going to be a source of friction for them and the teacher or won’t be much of a thing at all.
All of these things can be simulated before hand so when your kid gets to kindergarten, they’re not dealing with all of this at once. We did things like bring them to kid gyms that had circle time, so they’d know what that is. We’d make it a point to drop them off in daycare for an hour or so at a time so they’d have the experience of being in an unstructured play environment with a mixed bag of kids before it happened on their first day. Without you doing anything, your kid would be fine, but if you wanted to give them an easy on ramp, these areas are good ones to work on early.
Jonathan Brill is the Writer Relations lead at Quora and has been published on numerous sites including The Huffington Post and Forbes. You can read more from Quora below: