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Parents can help ease the transition to kindergarten

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I quickly learned that little fingers have a tough time manipulating buttons – after I bought several pairs of jeans for my son who was entering kindergarten.

Every day that he wore jeans to school, he came home with unbuttoned pants. His teacher sometimes buttoned them for him, but most days he didn’t ask for help.

As I obsessed about all the things I thought my son should know before going to kindergarten, buttoning his pants was not on my radar. Shame on me.

I soon only bought pants with an elastic waistband and sneakers with Velcro, giving up on the whole shoe-tying struggle.

Relax, said Linda LaCoppola, a prekindergarten teacher with the Cobleskill-Richmondville Central School District. Mastering shoelace tying can wait, she said.

“It’s really a little bit too early based on everything else they need to learn,” LaCoppola said.  “Velcro is a godsend.”

Instead, she suggests focusing on preparing your children to integrate into a group setting by practicing many of the activities they will be expected to take part in: coloring, drawing, walking in a single-file line and sitting quietly and listening to a story read aloud.

And when buying school clothes, be prepared that those clothes may look different when they return home from school than they did in the morning when they left home.

“Kindergarten should still be a fun, messy place,” she said. “Don’t spend a lot of money on clothes.”

When driving in a car, use the time together to focus on basics, such as letters and colors, LaCoppola says. Point out that McDonald’s golden arches are in the shape of the letter M, and ask your children how many red cars they see as you travel- that hones their counting and color recognition skills.

She also suggested checking out your local libraries for group story times so children get used to the expectations of sitting quietly in a group and listening to a story being read aloud. Watch for family-friendly events taking place in your community so children are exposed to other children and experience activities such as waiting in lines and taking turns.

Kevin Kelly, principal of Cobleskill-Richmondville’s Ryder Elementary School, which includes the district’s prekindergarten program, said “soft skills” such as sharing are sometimes what incoming kindergarten students seem to lack.

“For most of your child’s school day, he will relate to and work with the other children, learning to collaborate on projects and share toys,” according to babycenter.com.” Children who are comfortable working in groups do the best.”

Another tip from LaCoppola: take your children to visit their new school. Show your children where they will get on and off the bus. Trips to the playground help familiarize children with the layout and equipment so that when they are students, they are in a place where they are already comfortable.

And while it may be tough, whatever you do, try not to show your own nervousness or anxiety about your child starting school.

“They really pick up so much on the cues from their parents, and it makes them less excited about going,” LaCoppola said.

What can I do to help my child succeed in kindergarten?

You can take many steps to help your child prepare for kindergarten. For example:

Keep your child healthy

Ensure that your child eats healthy foods, gets plenty of sleep and receives routine medical checkups. Before the start of kindergarten, make sure your child has had a recent physical exam and is up to date on immunizations.

Develop routines

Choose regular times for your child to eat, play and sleep each day. This will help your child know what to expect and what’s expected from him or her.

Encourage the development of basic skills.

Work with your child to help him or her recognize letters, numbers, colors and shapes.

Read, rhyme and play games with your child

Make reading a daily family activity. Rhyming and playing with your child also are important for his or her development. Don’t rely on computer programs that teach your child to read. Reading benefits your child most when it’s a shared, interactive experience. An e-book offers as much benefit as a print book — as long as you and your child read it together.

Expose your child to learning experiences

Look for opportunities to broaden your child’s horizons, such as preschool. Take your child to the museum or enroll him or her in community art or science programs.

Encourage socialization

Promote your child’s social development by signing him or her up for group activities and inviting friends to go on outings. Encourage your child to share, express his or her feelings, practice taking turns, and follow simple directions.

Talk about kindergarten

Build excitement and lessen anxiety by explaining what your child’s routine might be like in kindergarten. Many schools offer an open house before the school year starts. Make it a priority to attend with your child and show your enthusiasm. If your child’s school doesn’t offer this type of orientation event, call the school to schedule another visit.

Source: Mayo Clinic


Nancy Cole is a public information specialist and grant writer for Capital Region BOCES. She lives in Onondaga County with her third- and fifth-grade sons and is happy to say they all survived the transition to kindergarten.