By Cheri J. Meiners, author of the Learning to Get Along® and Being the Best Me!® series
Has your child started all-day kindergarten this fall? Most children this age, whether or not they have attended preschool, are transitioning to new challenges such as a more demanding schedule, new classwork, making new friends, and developing confidence. Let’s take a look at how you might bolster your child in four important ways: physically, academically, socially, and emotionally.
1. Physical: Establish routines
On school mornings, make sure your child has plenty of time to get ready and to eat breakfast without being too rushed. You may want to post a picture checklist to help your child remember the routine.
After school, spend some time together. Children may appreciate a snack, a chance to relax, and a listening ear. Keep basic supplies like scissors, crayons, and pencils in an accessible place for working on school assignments. Allow plenty of downtime, too, so your child can unwind and get some exercise outdoors.
In the evenings, family dinners are an important part of your child’s day. Regular routines at bedtime will also help reduce stress. You might help your child lay out the next day’s clothes so mornings are less stressful. Take time to read to your child and to talk together. Schedule eleven or twelve hours of sleep for a child this age.
2. Academic: Give support and encouragement
You can informally help your child learn basic skills like numbers, alphabet recognition, and colors. Children can work on fine motor skills by writing their names and drawing simple shapes. Explain and describe everyday happenings with your child and encourage questions to boost vocabulary and oral communication skills. Learning at home can be fun, natural, and low key. As a family, you might plan regular visits to parks, libraries, museums, and community cultural arts events to widen your child’s awareness. Children are generally inquisitive and enthusiastic learners and can take cues from things that you are passionate about.
Support your child by attending school functions and keeping communication open with the teacher. Give lots of praise for effort, as well as completed assignments and accomplishments.
3. Socially: Help your child learn social expectations
Talk with your child about the behaviors that are expected during a typical school day. You might even act out scenarios with your child to teach concepts like sharing and joining in.
(Bonus! Download “joining-in” games and role plays from Join In and Play to help you with this.)
Encourage following directions and listening when the teacher or others are speaking.
Teach empathy. Help children recognize and identify emotions in themselves and others. Coach them to be mindful of how others might be feeling, and how your child might demonstrate respect and caring.
Play with your child for a few minutes each day. Besides building athletic and problem-solving skills, your child can learn the concepts of fairness and sportsmanship, creativity, and communication skills.
You might nurture your child’s friendships by arranging playdates with other children in the class or neighborhood.
Visit the classroom to observe your child in this new setting and work with the teacher if you have any concerns.
4. Emotional: Help your child feel valued, confident, and ready to learn
Encourage and help your child build confidence with your attention, positive feedback, and affirmations. Let your child know that you value spending time together. You might give your child a memento to connect to you, such as a small family photo in a pencil box, a note in a lunchbox, or a small token such as a pebble or felt heart to put in a pocket as a reminder of your support and caring.
Kindergarten can be an exciting new adventure. You now have the assistance of a teacher and a classroom of children to help teach your child. Even so, you are still your child’s primary teacher, and your devotion to your child’s all-around growth is needed and appreciated. You can help supply the ballast and stability, so that your son or daughter can feel free to explore, learn, and grow.
Cheri J. Meiners, M.Ed., has her master’s degree in elementary education and gifted education. A former first-grade teacher, she has taught education classes at Utah State University and has supervised student teachers. Cheri and her husband, David, have six children and enjoy the company of their lively grandchildren. They live in Laurel, Maryland.
Cheri’s many books include:
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