Preparing Your Child to Begin School

Schools across the country are announcing the start of Kindergarten registration. Whether the thought of sending your child to school for the first time instills fear or relief, it can be a stressful time for both of you. But there are things you can do now to help make the transition as smooth as possible.

What types of things can you do to prepare your child to begin school? First and foremost - make any preparations fun, not drudgery. Teachers don’t want kids to burn out before they even start school! Here are some simple things you can do at home:

  • Read to your child for a combined total of at least 20 minutes each day. While reading, point out how to hold a book (right-side up with the spine on the left) and the orientation in which we read the words and look at the pictures (left to right).
  • After reading, ask your child what happened in the beginning, middle, and end of the story.
  • Sing the ABC song. Point out the first letter of your child’s name.
  • Use a variety of materials to let your child paint, draw and explore.
  • Verbally give your child specific one-step and two-step directions, and encourage him to follow through.
  • Teach your child to make various patterns (red, blue, red, blue). Garage sale dot stickers or craft pom-poms are great for this purpose.
  • Practice counting while driving in the car and count objects in your home. Have your child point to each object as she counts.
  • Have your child help you sort items according to color, size, and shape. Laundry, blocks, silverware, toys, and other household items work well.
  • Go on a shape hunt. Point out circles, triangles, squares, and rectangles to your child while you are taking a walk or grocery shopping.
  • Talk about positional and directional concepts like up/down, over/under, in/out, behind/in front of, top/bottom, beside/between, off/on, stop/go.
  • Talk about opposites: big/little, empty/full, slow/fast, hot/cold.  

As the first day approaches, is it important to establish a routine. Here are some things to consider:

  • Children thrive on routine at home and at school.
  • Establish bed and wake times.
  • Have fun choosing the first day of school outfit and start laying out clothes the night before to make mornings as stress free as possible.
  • Let your child pick out their backpack and then decide where the backpack will be kept. Practice checking the backpack daily, signing papers and replacing them in the pack immediately, and cleaning out the snack/lunch box. Pack the backpack at night so you do not have the last minute morning rush.
  • Set up a stocked school supply box to keep at home for homework.

You can have a lot of fun practicing these routines over the summer!

Any other advice?

  • Take advantage of any back-to-school events for parents and students. At Stuart Hall School we hold back-to-school night for parents, an open house, and a community picnic before the start of school. Lower School students are assigned a buddy family over the summer to help children and parents learn more about the school and the daily schedule, and to help everyone see a friendly, familiar face at the community picnic and on the first day of school.
  • Saying Goodbye: Whether at school or home, make your goodbye cheerful and brief. Try to avoid coming back after you have already said goodbye, and it is best not to slip away unnoticed.  We find it is easier for children to start their day if they are dropped off in the carpool line rather than walked into the school by the parent.
  • Saying Hello - Make sure you are not late picking your child up. If you are unavoidably detained, call the school or caretaker to let them know when you will be arriving so your child will know when he will see you.

Most importantly, take time to de-stress! Children pick up on and reflect your attitude. Keep a light-hearted and upbeat approach to this exciting time in the life of your family. This is a milestone that both you and your child can enjoy reaching, and something you will remember fondly for years to come. (Just wait until you are preparing them for a college! Don’t worry - we’ll share some helpful tips for that too!)