An often overlooked concern for preparing children for preschool or kindergarten is reassuring kids that it is OK to ask for help. We would take it for granted that, at 3 or 4 or 5 years old, a child would be comfortable telling a teacher that he or she needs help, but that is not always the case. While at home, kids seem to call on mom or day easily, but at school some children are reluctant to say they don’t know how to do something, or where something is, or tell somebody that something unexpected is happening.
Letting your child know that it is okay to ask for help can be as simple as saying, “Did you know that at school, since mommy or daddy aren’t there you can ask your teachers for help?” If your child seems hesitaant, you may have to pretend to be the teacher and have your child practice a few times. Or you can pretend and using a child-like voice ask a few silly and not so silly questions that your child gets to answer, “Could you tell me if there are any chocolate monsters in the hallway?” Or, “I can’t reach the light in the bathroom. Could somebody reach it for me?” Kids may be afraid they would be in trouble and reluctant to tell the teacher that they spilled the paint, or their snack, or had an accident.
It is also important that children know if they feel sick, they need to tell the teachers. Every time a child tells a teacher his or her tummy hurts the teacher may not call you at home or work. Sometimes, the tummy ache might be because of a concern in class, such as a friend is sitting beside somebody else but it helps the teachers to know if somebody doesn’t feel very good.
Again, this is not an academic issue, but it is a very basic part of kindergarten readiness. Are there other non-academic concerns that you can suggest?
The walk through the kindergarten or preschool door may only be a small step for your child’s feet, but it is a giant leap in terms of independence and expansion of your child’s world. Just as Neil Armstrong had to be prepared for his journey, so do kids need us to help them with kindergarten readiness. The story of Neil Armstrong and his visit to the moon has inspired older generations. Going off to kindergarten is an adventure for kids; their “outer space” is the world beyond home.
There are some wonderful stories that you can read to your child about going to school. Bookstores and grocery stores will have displays of books and libraries will have some that you can check out. There are dozens and dozens of titles. Look for a book that will encourage you and your child to talk about all different kinds of feelings: excited about going, maybe a little nervous or scared. As you read to your child, you may notice some body reaction. Does your child seem to be relaxed, eager to check out the pictures and ask lots of questions or stiffen up and look down and away? These are clues about how your child is feeling and are especially important as kids might not have the words they need or be able to identify their feelings.
Make up your own stories, too, and suggest some feelings. Your child may tell you that’s not right or be relieved that you know. Here’s an example: One day, a little boy or girl who looked just like you…hmm, maybe it is you…was thinking about going to school. This little person said: I’m going to school. I’m going to school by myself. I’m going to school by myself and I am excited. Yes, I am. Yes, I…..Yes…..Well, maybe I am a little, sort of, kind of, well…..I think I am feeling scared.
Remember, in a story you can imagine anything and find some solutions that will work for the people in the story that will work for your family. I love the true story of a little girl who was taking extra long one morning to get ready. Her mother told her to hurry or she’d be late for the bus and miss school. The little girl replied “I’d rather stay home and miss school, that go to school and miss home.” No matter how excited children are to say hello to school, they still have to say goodbye to home. It might not be the moon, but it can feel like a very long way.
Instead of “3-2-1 -Blast off!” are you and your child ready for
Yesterday, we went to the beach with the family and other friends. As I was showing a 2 year old some rocks and crabs on the beach, I knew that she wouldn’t remember the ‘lesson’. But with the often repeated activity of an adult sharing some information with her or pointing something out to her she is learning that grown-ups have some learning or experience to share. This itself is a powerful lesson as it prepares the child for something that will happen over and over again at school. Today, to help prepare your child for kindergarten, share some tidbit of information. It can be as simple as saying: all these dishes have the same shape-circles, or: this water is too cold, I’ll add some hot water and then the hot and cold will mix and make warm. It can be pointing out the letters on the sign while riding on the bus or commenting on the weather. Your child needs lots and lots of situations of you sharing information so that s/he has that experience to build on with another adult. 2 for 1 adds up to readiness for school.