Heading to kindergarten for the first time can be pretty overwhelming. Many parents of a four year old experience excitement but apprehension about enrolling their child in kindergarten for the first time. With good reason; there are many decisions that have to be made when preparing a child for their first year of school. What about before and after school care? What types of French language programs are offered? Is their child ready to spend that length of time away from home?
For these and many other questions, the Ottawa Catholic School Board is here to help put your mind at east about your child’s upcoming journey. Check out our 12 ways to help prepare your child for kindergarten and give your child the best possible start.
12 ways to help your child prepare for Kindergarten
1. Encourage their independence.
Help your child become self-reliant by giving them time to practice everyday “big kid” tasks on their own. Encourage them to dress themselves, have them practice opening and closing snack containers, and attending to personal toilet habits.
2. Label everything.
Make sure your child’s name is on everything you send to school! Their backpack, food containers, and clothing, including shoes and boots.
3. Give them some parent/guardian-free time.
It’s helpful to give your child some separation from mommy/daddy. When leaving them with a babysitter or family member, be sure to tell them where you are going and that you will be back.
4. Empower their decision making.
Allow your child to make decisions on simple matters that are important to them. When doing groceries let them pick out their favourite fruit for snack, or have them choose the clothes they want to wear the next day during your bedtime routine.
5. Familiarize your child with their new school.
Visiting the school and playing in the yard is a great way to familiarize your child with their soon-to-be school. In the summer you might practice travelling the route to school by going on a family walk, bike or drive. Talk with your child on the journey to school noting landmarks they might notice on the way like special buildings, signs or trees.
6. Get involved in their learning.
Children perform better in school if their parents are involved in their education. Get them excited for learning by reading bedtime stories, visiting the public library, doing puzzles, making things together, reading recipes or road signs, and singing songs together.
7. Ask specific questions.
Having discussions with your child will help them practice expressing their thoughts and feelings. It’s helpful to ask specific questions, rather than general ones like “What did you do at school today?” Instead, try asking “Which story did you like best today?”
8. When it comes to clothing, go with “function over fashion.”
Physical activity and movement are part of the daily routine in school. For your child’s safety, send your child to school with clothes they can move in freely and comfortably. Clothing and running shoes should be easy to put on and remove.
9. Give them quality fuel.
Young children need frequent snacks to restore energy. At school, snacks might consist of fresh fruit, vegetables or unsweetened food. The teacher may contact you to make suggestions regarding snacks. It’s also important to ensure your child gets enough rest or sleep. Try to “unplug” and limit screen time well before bedtime.
10. Get to know your school.
Check out your school’s website and social media accounts. Attending information nights is a great way to learn about the school facility and meet the staff.
11. Receive their artwork with respect and excitement.
Children’s paintings and handiwork are an offering of themselves. Your excitement for their creations will encourage them to explore their talents and develop their abilities.
12. Share your positive experiences.
Your child might be curious about your experience when you were in school. Your child will follow your lead so keep the conversations positive and avoid sharing your fears or anxieties with them. Share some of your favourite memories, activities, and experiences to help them anticipate what it could be like for them.
Kelly McKibbin is the Board Website Coordinator with the Ottawa Catholic School Board’s Communications Department, and manages all aspects of the Board’s district website. Kelly holds a Bachelor of Arts in Communications from the University of Ottawa, is the recipient of a United Way Ottawa Community Builder Award.