Note- Before reading… this is not an academic skills post. I have many Kindergarten tips on this blog, but this one is more about teaching your child independence and self-help skills.
There comes a time when we are all ready to send our little ones to Kindergarten. I waited an extra year to send ours (you can see why I decided to “red-shirt” my kids here), but now it is almost time to send our second child to Kindergarten.
I was a teacher and I saw many things that I wish my students had known before coming to Kindergarten. While they aren’t mandatory, these 5 things your child should know before starting Kindergarten certainly help your child to feel more independent. I have been lucky enough to see things from a teacher’s side, as well as from the side as the parent. These things may seem little to you, or not important, but I can tell you that for your child, they are HUGE. They give your child confidence and they show the teacher that your child is independent and ready to take on Kindergarten! It’s the little things that give your child that feeling of success and leadership.
1. Tie their shoes – this is not as hard as you think.
Just let your child practice it in steps. For a few days, teach them to do the X and go through the first loop (the easy part). Do this over & over. Let them tie everything (cushions on chairs, your shoes, aprons, etc…)
Next, move onto the rest of the tying process (past just making the X). Yes, they will get frustrated… that is a given. Both of our boys became frustrated when learning, but with a little encouragement, they caught on. It took about a week. They were so proud of themselves (our kids had me take a video of them tying their shoelaces to send it to their Dad at work and to their grandparents.) Remember that when you want to jump in and tie it for them, when you are in a rush, or you see your child struggling, that you need to STOP doing that for your kids.
Ps- These things take away so much classroom time. If I had a penny for each shoelace that I tied when I taught… I would be RICH!! haha!
2. Open a juice box- Yes, it’s strange.
To be honest, I RARELY send my kids with juice boxes in their lunches, because they drink water with their lunch, but parties and celebrations in schools make this one of those little things that are happening more & more often. When I taught, I felt like I opened 27 juice boxes on those days (Birthdays happen quite often in a classroom with 20+ children).
How do you teach them to open a juice box? Step-by-step. Take the straw off, open it, insert it into the juice box, drink it, throw it all away (do not wait for the teacher to come by and get it). Easy enough, right? There are many 5 and 6-year-olds that do not do this because no one has taught them how. Our four year old LOVES to open his own juice box at parties- he feels like such a “big kid”.
3. Use the bathroom, wash hands and button their pants alone.
Again, easy enough. If your child can’t button their pants without help, you might want to send them in different pants. Most kids do not want to walk out, in front of 25 fellow-students, to ask their teacher to button their pants. Practice, practice, practice, to avoid your child being embarrassed.
4. How to handle getting what they need
You want your child to take responsibility for themselves. Think about if your child breaks their pencil in class. Will they know that they need to raise their hand to get another one? Or will they sit there, doing nothing, because they don’t know that they need to take care of themselves? One day our son came home and told me that he didn’t eat his yogurt because I didn’t pack him a spoon. I said “Don’t they have spoons there?” and he looked at me like I was crazy until I explained that if I do not pack him a spoon (or napkin or a straw), he needs to get up, get in line, and take care of his needs. No one is going to do it for him. Remember, you are raising your child to be a responsible adult.
5. Know the basics! Does your child know their name, phone number, address? These are IMPORTANT! You are relying on adults that have 24+ other students that day. While I’m sure that our kids will be safe, I still make sure that they know these things. I would never want to send our little ones out ‘into the world’ without this information. Oh- and this means their LAST NAME, too, not just their first. If your child doesn’t know this, at least slip a piece of paper in between their sock & their shoe with the info on it. This is what I do when we go out somewhere with a lot of people, like an amusement park… and the kids know to look for it there, in case they “forget”.
ps- Check out our new book, filled with everything that your child needs to start Kindergarten- written by teachers!
This is an exciting time and I’m sure that your child’s teacher will have a blast teaching your little ones! Enjoy the journey of Kindergarten with your child!