Your baby is growing up. He has said goodbye to his preschool days and will soon be entering a whole new world — kindergarten. Whether he is feeling excited or anxious about this new milestone, it's a good idea to keep a few things in mind to make this transition as smooth as possible (although there is no guarantee that it will be tear-free for either of you).
Take a tour of the school
Although many schools offer an orientation for you and your child, it doesn't hurt to set up your own little tour of the school as well. Walking through the school and familiarizing your child with classrooms and hallways may help ease any anxiousness he could be feeling about his first day. Contact the school administration to arrange for a time to visit the school.
Make learning fun
If your child seems to groan and complain when you push a pre-K workbook at him, try some alternate sources for teaching him his alphabet and numbers. Ask him what letters he sees on the signs and billboards while running errands. Have him count the toys as he puts them away. Go on a shape hunt. Visit libraries to checkout new books and read together daily. The point is to make learning fun, not drudgery.
Encourage group interaction
Whether or not your child has attended daycare or preschool, it's a good idea to familiarize her with other children her age. A classroom of 20+ kids can feel daunting to a little person. Setup several play dates or take her to the library for story time. You want her to get comfortable with sitting for long periods as well as learn how to cooperate with other children. Enrolling her in sports could also encourage group participation and teamwork.
Try time away from you
If your child has primarily been in the care of mom and dad since birth, it's a good idea to get him used to being around other trusted adults. Maybe setup a play date with another friend for a few hours or have an aunt or uncle take him to a park. Especially if you have a sensitive or anxious child, little chunks of time away from you might ease the adjustment to those first few days of kindergarten. It will also teach him to follow directions from another adult figure.
Let your child express feelings about kindergarten
Sometimes we get so caught up in purchasing school supplies and new school clothes that we forget to check in with our child. Ask her how she is truly feeling about entering kindergarten. Let her express excitement and don't dismiss her nervousness or uncertainty. Validating her feelings and expressing your own excitement is key to giving her a positive outlook on this new chapter in her life.
Be ready for possible waterworks from both of you
. Even if you've had your emotions in check and your child seems to have an "I got this!" attitude, don't be surprised if one or both you shed a few tears. Those few moments before he walks into his classroom can be tough ones. It might be a good idea to have some tissues handy. Even so, try to make goodbyes brief and positive so you don't cause more worry or distress for your little one.
Getting your child ready for kindergarten is a fun and exciting time for you and your child. Remember to foster a fun atmosphere for learning and experiment with time away from you. Setup activities that will encourage interaction with other children. Also, allow your child to voice her joys and anxieties for kindergarten as you show your own enthusiasm without being overbearing. Most of all, keep in mind that there is no shame in becoming a little emotional on that first day. You've just watched your baby become a "big kid" right before your eyes. Such a milestone warrants, if not mandates, some tugs on the heartstrings.