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Oregon Family Magazine

Preparing for Kindergarten

08/02/2016 ● By Sandy Kauten
Summer is passing by more quickly than planned, and you may be panicking because you’re sending your child off to kindergarten. Are they ready? Are you ready? Kindergarten is one of the largest milestones in a young child’s life, and you want to ensure you, and your child, transition smoothly.

Summers McBride graciously answered some questions about preparing for the big start. As a kindergarten teacher, she offers helpful insight and suggestions for making the jump to kindergarten successful.

1. What are the 3-5 MOST important things a parent can do to prepare their child for kindergarten (in the month before school starts?)
Before school begins you could visit the school and take a tour- visit the important places, kindergarten hall, cafeteria, etc.  Practice getting in/out of car seats so the car line will be less stressful, or visit the bus stop and talk about procedures for riding a bus.  Have your child practice writing their name with a pencil.  Practice counting objects and counting aloud. Most importantly, reading daily and ask questions as you read to your child.  Examples of simple ways to help develop pre-reading skills while reading together include,  pointing to words on the page as you read, or having your child point to words, or asking her how many words are on a page.

2. Where do you see parents putting unnecessary effort?
I think we are all guilty of this; worrying too much about things that don’t truly matter.  Things like having the perfect outfits, shoes, hair styles, lunch boxes, and sparkly school supplies. Additionally, don’t panic if your kids do not know their letters, numbers, or are not reading yet. Children will be assessed prior to school, or shortly after school begins, and placed by to skill level. There is a large variation in skill level for children entering school their first year, but by the end of the year, your child will be where they need to be to enter first grade.

3. Do you have any advice for a first time Kindergarten parent?
Trust and talk with your child’s teacher often.  We love your children just like they are our own and we truly want the best for each and every child in our classroom.  Keep the morning goodbye short, sweet, and positive because some students are very anxious the first few days. It’s very encouraging for the student if you remain calm and upbeat because children can sense when a parent is stressed or sad.

4. Can you recommend any good books to can help prepare mom and dad for the first week?
The best children’s book I know of is The Night Before Kindergarten.  Otherwise, I think books for parents vary depending on the kind of child.

5. What are some ideas if parents want to bring a gift for their teacher the first week?
The biggest gift is having support, and knowing you have parents to help you.  But, for the parents who are unable to help in class, I know they like to show their support/love other ways.  For me, the worst part of preparing for my day is making my lunch.  When a parent offers to bring me lunch - that is a wonderful gift! Coffee is great too!  As for a gift, I can’t speak for all teachers but things we use in the classroom is also very helpful: pens, stationary, tissues, disinfectant wipes, hand soap, etc.   

6. Any other tips or pointers for moms and dads?
Just try not to worry, and if you have questions, thoughts, or concerns feel free to talk to your child’s teacher.  I am huge on communication and being on the same page with parents so things remain consistent for my students; great communication helps everyone involved.  Other tips for after the school year starts:

  • Bring a snack when you pick up your child from school. Many kindergartners eat lunch very early, so by the end of the day, they are very hungry.
  • Be prepared for homework. Yes, kindergarten in many schools has daily homework.
  • Plan for rest time. School will wear them out. Especially those children who have never been in an all-day program or are still used to taking a nap. 

Good luck as you begin this exciting and sometimes scary adventure into education. Remember these tips, and try to enjoy it!

 Alexa Bigwarfe is the mother of three young children and a freelance writer. She writes about her experiences through motherhood and is particularly familiar with this topic as she prepares her middle child for kindergarten in the fall.