I sent my oldest off to kindergarten last year, and while that in no way qualifies me as an expert, I still feel compelled to share what I’ve learned… from one mom to another. Last year at this time I was a little anxious and navigating so many firsts preparing my son for kindergarten. I found the most reassurance and helpful tips came from other moms. So in no particular order, here are 12 tips I want to pass along:
1. Give the bus a try from the beginning
If you are going to have your kiddo ride the bus at all during the year, have them start from the very beginning. At least in our school system, the start of the school year is a time when they have additional adult support/guidance on each bus and have the kindergartners ride in the front. In the beginning of the year school, all the bus drivers and school staff have a heightened awareness of making sure the kids are comfortable and in the right place.
2. Size up with the backpack
From our experience, in kindergarten you can no longer get away with the adorable, yet tiny, character packs. We found that our son needed a much bigger backpack than we would have anticipated. Between take home folders, library books, projects/artwork, a change of shoes, water bottles, and snow gear (which takes up a ton of room and for such a long season here in Maine!), we opted for a large backpack that he could still manage on his own.
3. Appropriate footwear your kiddo can manage independently
My son lives in sneakers, so not an issue for him, but our teacher was constantly reminding families to send kiddos in appropriate footwear. They had PE twice a week and three recesses throughout the day that required sensible and safe footwear. It’s also important that your child can be independent with their shoes. If he has not mastered laces, stick to Velcro.
4. Keep an open mind about your child’s teacher
In our little town, teacher assignments are sent home in the mail the same time every year, and we all run to the mailbox in anticipation. As parents, we get excited and we love to compare notes which is great, but one thing I’ve learned thus far is to keep an open mind about our assigned teacher. Every kiddo and every family is different, and no one’s experience will be the same.
5. Read books and watch shows that talk about the transition
The start of kindergarten is a big transition for our little people. Every kiddo is different — some, like my son, are beyond eager to jump in full speed ahead, but others need extra reassurance. I’m certainly no expert, but I think all kids can benefit from talking about the transition ahead. There are many great books out there to help with the dialogue, like Wemberly Worried and Kindergarten Rocks!, and some favorite shows like Daniel Tiger have some great episodes helping kiddos through change by example
6. Label everything
We lost countless hats, mittens, and water bottles last year, but on many occasions, labeling saved the day. No matter how hard you try to find unique items, you will be surprised how many other kids have the same thing. Label everything… shoes included! There are lots of great options out there for labeling and monogramming.
7. Lead by example: show them excitement not anxiety
Show your child that you’re comfortable with with her starting school to help her feel more at ease. Certainly it’s a great time to have open dialogues with your kiddo about the transition and any of their fears, but show confidence in them and the experience. Try not to stress out about where you’re child is at in terms of skill set. My son literally could not write his name when he started Kindergarten, but he picked it up in no time.
8. Choose an easy-to-navigate lunchbox
Many new kindergartners haven’t had to navigate a lunch box on their own before. To help them with this transition, pick a lunch box that is easy for them to open and navigate. For us, a bento box style works best as it’s easy and efficient for my little guy to manage and also gives him variety. Also, don’t stress out if the lunch box comes back full in the beginning. Lunch time at school is short and they’re learning how to balance their social time and eating. They will figure it out and they will eat, but don’t be surprised if “I’m starving” is the fist thing they say when they get off the bus.
9. Go to all the school orientations, meet and greets, and play dates that you can
This seems like a no-brainer, but schedule permitting, try to get to all the school functions and orientations that you can. Many classes will organize a few summer play dates to get to know each other; definitely look into this or work on organizing one yourself. When school does start, be sure to check your child’s backpack daily and read everything that comes home.
10. Encourage independence
You might be having a hard time letting go — especially if this is your first kiddo — but as summer is winding down, be sure to encourage your child to try things on their own and give them a little extra responsibility. Picking out their outfit, regular chores around the house, reading time, packing their bag, labeling their gear are great places to start at this age.
11. Start your routine early
Kindergarten (especially if you have full-day, like we do) is a long day. These kids will be pooped, making sleep and routine key. If you’re like us, bed times have often been pushed later on these beautiful summer nights. Now is the time to starting shifting back to earlier bed times. It’s also good to start other elements of your school days routine before school actually starts, like having your child lay out an outfit the night before, working together to prep lunches and snacks, establishing a grooming routine, and practicing being all the way ready to leave by the time you would need to be out the door.
12. Ask your child more specific questions
Remember that your kiddo has had a long day, they will be tired (especially in the beginning!), and not always wanting to chat. With that said, I’ve learned that you get more information when you ask more specific questions. Who was your reading partner today? What was your special today? What sport did you play at recess? In the beginning I would say, How as school today? and my son would give me a quick “good” and move right along. His amazing teacher sent parents weekly questions to ask that were probing and more likely to get the dialogue flowing, and it was a huge help.
What’s your best tip for newbie kindergarten moms? If you’re a newbie yourself, what has you most anxious?
This post was contributed by Rebecca Spear as part of Savvy Sassy Moms Product Scouts. You can find more from Rebecca on her blog, Mainely Mama.