published Sunday, June 30th, 2013

Baumgardner: Making the transition to kindergarten

Julie Baumgardner

Believe it or not, in a few weeks a group of young and energetic children will head off to school for the first time. Which means there are a lot of parents who are nervous about sending their child off on this new journey.

“Being a parent myself, I can totally relate to parents feeling anxious,” says Brennan Griffin, a local kindergarten teacher. “This is an important and special time of transition for your child. I think it is helpful for parents to remember that, overarchingly, teachers love children and want what is best for them. We don’t just care about academic growth; we also care about their social and emotional growth.”

Even though you may be feeling anxious about your child leaving the safety of home or a familiar preschool, it is crucial for you to deal with your own emotions appropriately while helping your child to make the most of this rite of passage.

“Attitude is everything,” says Mrs. Griffin. “Your excitement and the ability to help your child get excited are keys to a smooth transition. Kindergarten is a chance for your child to blossom, to increase [his or her] self-confidence and benefit from new experiences as they meet new friends, learn new rules and become a little more independent.”

Now is the perfect time to begin preparing your child for this change.

“In general, I think most teachers care more about a child being emotionally prepared for this transition than if they know all the letters of the alphabet and can read,” says Mrs. Griffin. “If you are going to work on names of letters and letter sounds, it is better to start with the letter sound than the name. Knowing the sounds gives them a jump-start when learning to read and write words.”

While a child would not be expected to know how to read when entering kindergarten, reading to your child every day will better prepare him to learn in this new environment.

“Sometimes all of the structure and stimulation can be initially overwhelming for children,” says Mrs. Griffin. “The more parents do things with their children at home like reading, playing silly rhyme games, literally playing and exploring with them, will help them be prepared to learn in the classroom.”

Here are a few more tips to help prepare your child.

• Visit the school where your child will be attending kindergarten.

• If your child has not been in the care of someone other than mom and dad, allow your child to stay with other trusted adults before kindergarten to help her get used to another adult being in charge.

• Do activities with other children where your child has to learn to take turns and share.

• Take advantage of the grocery store to point out colors and shapes or to count apples, bananas or cereal boxes.

• If you buy shoes with shoelaces, teach your child how to tie his shoes.

“Having taught kindergarten for six years, I know this is such a special time for the children,” says Mrs. Griffin.

“I would encourage parents to do your best to prepare your child. Resist the temptation during the first few weeks to volunteer in the classroom. This will give your child and the teacher a chance to get into the swing of things while you provide consistency at home, making sure they get adequate rest, eat right and have the opportunity to play. Doing these things will help you and your child adjust and have a great kindergarten experience.”

Contact Julie Baumgardner, president and CEO of First Things First, at julieb@firstthings.org.

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