Kickstart kindergarten success: Help kids get ready, be thoughtful

Whether it brings excitement, anxiety, or a natural mix of both, that First Day of School is almost here. For kindergartners in particular, it’s pretty momentous; after all, it involves crossing a threshold in more ways than one. Anticipate a few tears—both yours and theirs—and use these last few days to help prepare little ones for big changes.

In March a Very Well post titled, “5 Things Kindergarten Teachers Wish Parents Knew,” by Amanda Morin, suggested that “Kindergarten is a much more academically rigorous environment than many parents remember.” Quite a few kindergartners today have skills already in place that were once associated with first grade. Whether kids are already there or needing to get there, the Get Ready Kindergarten Learning Set gives kids an incredible variety of options for playfully practicing skills and can extend the classroom into the living room, play room, or waiting room. It includes 1 traditional workbook and flash card set, 1 wipe-clean workbook and flash card set, 1 write & wipe clock, 1 practice pad, 1 coloring pad, 8 sticker sheets, 8 crayons, jumbo pencil, and dry erase pen and eraser--all in one handy carrying case that makes clean-up and storage easy.

Of course, school readiness involves lots of practice, patience, and parental support. In June, Morin followed up in Very Well with “4 Ways to Get Your Child Ready for Kindergarten,” emphasizing that “Kindergarten readiness isn't a matter of having one specific skill set, it's a combination of many different skills … The “4 ways” referenced in the title are exploring books, language, fine motor skills, and independence with your child.

The Alphabet Stickers Workbook develops multiple important skill sets at once, especially language and fine motor skills. With activities such as “Trace Q. Then write Q. Then place the stickers that show the Q sound, like Quarter and Queen,” lessons are introduced and reinforced in multiple ways from more than one angle, appealing to different learning styles. Plus, kids love stickers, and this workbook has 267!

Another way to pack lots of learning in one place is Little Scholar, a tablet uniquely designed for kids ages 3 to 7. Kids will have a blast mastering math, reading, spelling, and more, with over 200 preloaded apps, videos, e-books, and songs.

Morin’s earlier post also offered questions for parents to ask themselves to evaluate kindergarten readiness that extend beyond 1,2,3 and A,B,C, includingCan my child separate from me for hours at a time without distress?” and “Is my child able to complete personal need tasks independently or is she willing to try?” Such tasks include buttoning/snapping pants, zipping coats, washing hands, and using the bathroom without help.

School Family provided more tips to make the “k” part of K-12 begin smoothly. One post titled, “Get Ready for Kindergarten,” by Patti Ghezzi, includes ideas for reducing kids’ anxiety that we, as parents, may underestimate. Though intended to play out over an entire summer, the suggestions are still valuable in these last couple weeks before the bell rings. For example, in the article, Eddie Manuszak, principal of Patterson Elementary in Tecumseh, MI, advises allowing your child to become familiar with the school by driving past it as often as possible. Other tips include frequently bringing up school in conversation and making shopping for school supplies a “fun experience.”

In fact, getting kids to think about others and actually do something for others can reduce self-focus and also help cultivate generous hearts. Blessings in a Backpack is a program that "mobilizes communities, individuals, and resources to provide food on the weekends for elementary school children across America who might otherwise go hunger." Soles4Souls has the stated goal of "wearing out poverty." Among the ways to help this latter organization is to done and repurpose gently worn shoes or host a shoe drive.

Likewise, In The Image, a Michigan organization, is celebrating its 20th year of a program called Shoes Help Our Elementary Students (S.H.O.E.S.). Many local non-profits operate similar back-to-school drives and programs. Buying a pair of shoes or a backpack full of food or school supplies for a child who otherwise might go without, can be an eye-opening experience for kids who might already be comparing their new goodies to a best friend's or next-door-neighbor's and thinking they come up short.

Practicing a few skills, including thoughtfulness and compassion, can turn the butterflies-in-the-tummy associated with starting school, into soaring success.