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Getting Ready for School: Four Tips from a Kindergarten Teacher

Getting Ready for School: Four Tips from a Kindergarten Teacher

by Nicole Meier

Heading off to kindergarten can be a time of high emotions: joy, fear, excitement, anxiety, nervousness, sadness, hopefulness, and that is just in the parents!

But seriously, feelings are an important part of getting ready to go to school. Having your child be ready socially and emotionally is more of a priority for kindergarten teachers than academics.

Wait...What?

Did a teacher just say that academics are not the priority?

Academics are a part of school, but most teachers know that teaching the whole child is vital. If children do not know how to self-regulate, get along with others, manage their emotions, and follow directions and listen then the academics will be harder to learn. So how do you have your child be ready socially and emotionally to head to school? Here are a few simple things you can begin doing now to help your child:

1. Have your child play with other children in small groups without you around. This can be play dates with friends, church childcare, leave him/her with a babysitter, Mom's Day Out events, Parks and Rec classes, etc. Find ways where your child can separate from you, the parent. This gives them practice being independent and trusting other adults.

2. How do you handle your emotions as the adult? 93% of communication is said to be nonverbal. Are you portraying excitement, joy, and hopefulness in your face and actions? Your child will take their cues from you. On the first day of school, drop your child off with confidence then go have a good cry and a Starbucks where they cannot see you. Put your brave face on, mom and dad!

3. Are you allowing your child to do things for him or herself? The gift of confidence is one of the most valuable things you can give your child. Notice things your child does and say things like, "I like the way you picked up your toys without being told" or, "you did a great job getting dressed by yourself." You want your child to feel capable. Allow your child to attempt and even have productive struggle with things like buttoning, zipping, tying, etc. Talk to your child about persevering and not giving up. Try, try again is a great thing to teach children when they are young.

4. 'Catch' your child being good by complimenting him when he responds appropriately in a given situation. Encourage social and emotional feats like handling change in a routine, sticking with something until it is complete, anticipating a new activity, increasing responsibility, communicating his/her needs and asking for help, talking with other children, taking turns and sharing, caring for his/her own belongings and respecting others' things.

Children learn social skills best by modeling, repetition and practice. Model good manners and respect for others so your child will do the same. Remember more is 'caught' than taught.

About the Author

Nicole (Nikki) Meier is a kindergarten teacher at Farley Elementary in USD 437. She has an Elementary and Early Childhood degree from Evangel University and is Nationally Board Certified in Early Childhood. She has taught all day Kindergarten starting in 1998, as well as running an after school program K-5 for two years. She teaches over 100 kids a day to swim each summer and also enjoys teaching others through presentations and workshops. Nikki has been honored numerous times for doing what she loves to do. Highlights are being named National Kindergarten Teacher of the Year in 2003 and being a state semi finalist for Kansas Teacher of the Year in 2014.