The first day of kindergarten…that’s a BIG deal! For some kids its their very first school experience ever! Others have been in daycare or preschool maybe, but there is still something different about kindergarten. The start of their official school career. And you have probably been wondering if they’re ready. You’ve gotten their supplies, monogrammed their lunchbox, labeled their belongings and have been reading lots of books to prepare. Maybe you’ve been practicing letters, numbers and shapes or practicing spelling their name. That’s great! But as a former kindergarten teacher, I want to let you in on some insider info. We LOVE when kiddos come prepared with supplies and ready to learn, already knowing some of the basics. But there are a few skills you may not have thought of that I bet the teacher is hoping they know.
Being Ready for Lunch
This is probably the biggest one. Be sure your child can manage whatever you pack in their lunch box. All of those cute little matching Tupperware/bento boxes are cute, but not very practical if your cutie can’t open them. So double check a few things BEFORE school starts:
- Can they open the actual lunch box? And get it closed after eating?
- Can they open any containers from home you’ve included like tupperware or ziplocs?
- What about prepackaged snacks like individual bags of goldfish or the string cheese, or fruit cup. And please, PLEASE see if they can open the Gogurt (this is a common culprit).
- And don’t forget about fruit! Are they used to opening their own bananas or peeling their own mandarin oranges?
My recommendation is to have a few practice lunch sessions before school begins. Pack their lunch the way you plan to when school starts and give it to them at home. Look for the things they have trouble with and find a different option. If they can’t peel their orange, send it already peeled. If Tupperware lids are hard, try ziploc instead.
Why is this important you ask? Can’t the teacher just help? Absolutely she/he can and will! But when your child is one of maybe 20-25 kids this can be a challenge. When I was teaching we only had 20 minutes for lunch. If I have to get to all of the kiddos in the class to open various items, students (and the teacher) are left with even less time. Giving your child these skills helps streamline the process!
Mastering Clothing Items
Another area that can often be overlooked is independence in ALL areas of their wardrobe. Things to consider would be:
- Zippers on their jackets
- Any buttons, snaps or zippers on their pants (for before and after restroom trips)
- Winter gear like gloves, hats and snowpants if you live in the north and go out when it snows (for all you southern teachers gasping, yes it happens)
Again it’s not that the teacher can’t help, it’s more about logistics. If every kid needs help with their jacket before recess? Time for playing gets lost while we get everyone situated! Or if your kiddo needs help with their button or belt to get to the restroom, that can lead to accidents!
You’ll notice I didn’t put shoelaces on this list. If your child can tie their shoes at the start of the year that is so wonderful and your teacher thanks you profusely I assure you. But if your kiddo can’t just yet, that’s ok! BUT I would highly encourage you to practice and make it a goal to reach by the end of the year (the sooner the better).
Being a Good Friend
Reading, writing, math…yes it’s important! And your child’s teacher can’t wait to teach them letters, shapes, high frequency words and more. But practicing social skills is also a huge part of being in kindergarten. They’ll practice cooperation, teamwork, sharing, patience, and respect. But the classroom community is much more positive for everyone when kiddos come in with exposure to some of these skills already. Helping your child practice sharing or waiting their turn at home can be huge!
Many kids haven’t been in large group settings like this before and it can be a shock to their system when they need to wait, don’t get their way or find themselves in a conflict with a friend. So read lots of books with your child about being a good friend, having manners, being kind etc. Have good conversations before the year starts about how they can be a good classmate to others. No one is perfect and everyone will have things to learn but this can keep it from being so overwhelming.
I hope these tips help your child have the best first year of school ever!