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Getting a child ready for kindergarten

The experience of beginning kindergarten is a big step for both children and parents. Getting ready for that first big day can be stress-free and fun, particularly when you take into account the power of play and the excitement that can be shared. Dr. Roni Leiderman, associate dean of the Family Center at Nova Southeastern University in Florida, has these tips for parents.

Take your child to her new school to meet her teacher and see the classroom. Many schools have open days where you can visit and play in the room before the beginning of the school year. Take advantage of this time to acclimate your child to her new environment.

Familiarize her with the centers in the classroom. Paint a picture together, roll out clay snakes, and read a book in the library corner. Visit the lunch room, the bathroom, the playground and the bus stop. At home, read books and watch videos about children starting school. If you know of another child who will be in the same class, arrange a it so your child has a friend to greet that first day.

With busy schedules and timetables to keep, the early hours of making the bus or driving through traffic can be a challenge. Develop a morning routine in advance of the first day. Allow your child to make choices. Would she like oatmeal or toast and fruit for breakfast? Would she like to wear her blue shirt or her red one? Go shopping for school supplies and let your child choose her new backpack and lunch box. Giving her appropriate control encourages and supports her independence. It also helps thwart those early morning power struggles and creates a calm and happy way to say good-bye each day.

Take advantage of your five-year-old's playfulness. In the weeks before school starts, engage in role-plays about attending school. Practice saying goodbye, having lunch in the cafeteria, taking turns, and being the teacher. Talk with your child, read her cues, encourage her efforts, and be patient. Celebrate this meaningful step as your child begins kindergarten and enters a new world of friendships, learning and independence.

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