Tips to prepare your child for kindergarten

August 22, 2016  //  FOUND IN: Updates & Resources,

For parents and children alike, the first day of kindergarten can be a big — and sometimes scary — event.

Not only does the milestone help foster new growth in social skills and self-reliance, but it can shape attitudes toward school attendance and the learning process for years to come.

“We know that if kids get off on the right foot, it does set the tone for how they expect school to go in the future,” said Jessica Fealy, M.D., a pediatrician at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital and a clinical instructor in pediatrics at U-M.

Laying this groundwork should begin well before a child enters a classroom.

The preparatory steps that families can take together are simple.

Fealy, herself a mother of three whose middle child will enter kindergarten this fall, offered some tips to ensure a smooth, successful start:

Establish a routine: Talking about the concept of school and what it entails can begin well in advance, Fealy said. Older siblings, family members or friends could also could share their experiences. Visit the grounds to check out the building, the classroom (see if an orientation session or open house is offered) and, of course, the playground.

Rehearse your walking route — or, if your child will be riding the bus, locate the bus stop and read a book together about riding the bus. Talk to your child about waiting safely at the bus stop and watching for cars when they cross the street.

Get more sleep: Being ready for school means being well rested. In the weeks before school starts, work on getting back on a “school-year bedtime” by going to bed 30 minutes earlier per week, Fealy said. Everyone ought to practice waking up as well as getting dressed and fed at the proper hour to avoid hiccups on the first day.

Sufficient sleep is even more vital once school starts. Fealy said her older child at first was “really tired” at night due to the bustle of kindergarten. She advised limiting other activities that week and being flexible to permit an earlier bedtime if needed.

Nurture key skills: The biggest thing parents can do to prepare their youngsters? “Reading together — it lays the groundwork for early literacy and later school success,” said Fealy, who noted that children should be able to print their name, know some letters and numbers as well as phonetic sounds before starting kindergarten.

Kids can boost motor skills by learning to hold a crayon, pencil or glue stick (making collages by cutting magazines with safety scissors is a good way to practice, Fealy said). A child also should also be able to recite their full name, address and phone number. She recommends that parents pick one cell phone number to focus on teaching their child.

For more tips on preparing your little one for his or her big day, go to the UMHS Health Blog.