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How to Prepare Your Child For Kindergarten (From a Teacher)

My oldest, Dawson, is starting 4k in a couple weeks. I still cannot believe I have a child old enough for elementary school. Dawson has attended day care/Montessori school since he was three months old, but since our third child was born this past February, he has been home with me and his two younger brothers. I jokingly say we are ALL ready for him to start kindergarten (it has been a wild summer), but deep down, I’m a mess. Is he really ready for this? Have we done everything we can to prepare him? Will I be more like Mila Kunis or Christina Applegate in Bad Moms? I just want what every mom wants – to help set my child up for success. How do I do that without being a “helicopter” mom?

My sister is a kindergarten teacher in the upstate of South Carolina, so I asked her opinion on what I should, or should not, do to make sure Dawson is ready for school. If I could, I would sit in the corner of the classroom watching everything, but something tells me that would not fly with the teacher. Below are the top skills that my sister, and her teacher friends, recommend new kindergarten moms consider.

Reading

Reading pictures for a kindergartner is reading. Don’t discourage this, and don’t push your kindergartner to read the words. I personally love letting Dawson look at the pictures to hear what he thinks the story is about. You can almost see his (very boyish) mind working. He has most of our books memorized, but I love to hear him tell the stories with his own spin on it. Read with your kindergartner nightly. Not only is the practice good for them, but the bond that you will develop, and the memories you create, will make a much bigger impression than drilling him on pronouns.  Your goal is to show him how fun reading is, and not turn it into a chore that he has to do.

Fostering Independence

Coming out of Montessori school, we are very familiar with fostering independence. By this I mean encouraging your kindergartner to do things on his own first. This may take more time initially, Actually, it most definitely will, so set your expectations appropriately, but it is important for him to learn how to problem solve and do things on his own. A good example of a task that your kindergartner can practice is dressing himself. Pick two outfits out the night before school and let your kindergartner pick the one he wants to wear the next day. This helps in two ways. One, you are less likely to fight over him getting dressed because the outfit was chosen by him and two, your child is proud that he chose his outfit and will want to do it again. We started doing this months ago and now Dawson will wake up, grab an outfit for the day, and get himself dressed before he leaves his room. One thing to keep in mind is that it may never match, and parts of it will likely be on backwards, but I don’t correct him when I notice these things. I mention it (“I love that you got yourself dressed this morning. Great job! Normally, the pockets go in the front, but you can wear your shorts like that today!”) but I don’t make him change because he was independent and proud of it!

Importance of Play

Let your kindergartner play rather than trying to entertain them. I am guilty of this, for sure. For some reason, I thought I had to entertain my kids A LOT. Turns out, kids need way more time to play independently. They need to use their imaginations and pretend play. My kids love our play kitchen. They will set up a “restaurant” and sell food off a hilarious menu (hotdogs, cookies, and cheese toast. I hope that isn’t a knock at my cooking!) If I stay out of the way long enough to let the boys play, they come up with some amazing ideas and naturally work on problem solving skills that will set them up for success in kindergarten.     

How to Prepare Your Child For Kindergarten (From a Teacher's Perspective)

Playing Questioning Games/Guessing Games

A fun game to play with your kindergartner that will help his reasoning and problem solving skills is a guessing game. It may sound simple, but my boys love it! You may have to explain/model how to play it at first, but the goal is for the kindergartner to be able to do this. Kindergartner: “I am thinking of an animal …it is a large animal, it has four legs, it is gray, what animal am I thinking of?” This is a great educational game for your child and will keep their attention for awhile if you are looking for some rainy day fun or car games!

While sending my first child off to 4k seems like sending him to college, I know he is ready for it and will be so happy to make new friends and learn new things. They are such sponges at that age and it really warms my heart to imagine him chatting my ear off about everything he learned and did when I pick up up from his first day!

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