The goldenrod and kudzu are blooming, and the hints of cooler temperatures greet us as we wake in the mornings. Folks all over Western North Carolina are singing their summer swan songs by means of getting in those last pool days before crowding the aisles of the local stores to purchase pencils and printer paper. It’s August, which means it is a transitional time for many families who have a young school-age child. One of the pieces of our work at Buncombe Partnership for Children is to guide and support families who have children entering kindergarten, and a question we get often is “How can I get my child ready for kindergarten?” While this question can inspire varied responses depending on who is asked, we understand that families want to make sure their child feels supported and ready to thrive in a social and academic environment.
To get some tips and information about the ways families can be preparing their children in the weeks leading up to kindergarten, as well as the first several weeks into the school year, we asked two local kindergarten teachers their advice.
- Practice the routines and discuss expectations
The kindergarten teachers from Buncombe County and Asheville City Schools we interviewed for this post both recommended helping children move towards more independence in tasks such as opening food containers or zipping their jackets and backpacks. One suggestion from a teacher is to practice these skills with your children in the coming weeks, and if they seek your assistance, prompt them with the question “How would you solve this problem if I’m not in the room?” Also, teach your child how to ask for help when they truly need it. Parents and children may be surprised to learn how fast paced the day can be in kindergarten, and with 18 or more children in a classroom, that means building confidence in skills like emptying and packing their own backpack and lunchboxes (if they will be packing lunch) and following multi-step directions (such as “put your folder in the box and take a pencil to your table”) is critical.
- Rest and recharge
It’s fairly common advice that young children need to begin winding down their days earlier to prepare for the early mornings and action-packed days at school, but one teacher we interviewed invites us to consider the time after children come home as a moment to re-set as well. “The biggest surprise each year that I hear from parents is that their children are often exhausted after the end of the day. I want parents to know that this is completely normal because at school, they are consistently following structure and taking in experiences with 17 other children. When children get home, this is often a safe space to release all their emotions and energy. My advice for working through these emotions would be to give children a period where they can do a quiet activity to re-ground themselves after a long day. Children often need a period of rest to transition from school to home life.”
- Work as a team
Though you know your child best, consider this time as an opportunity to activate your child’s support networks. Your family, any former caregivers, and your child’s kindergarten teacher can be building relationships as part of an important team in the transition. Discuss anything of interest with your child’s current care providers and add your own observations and knowledge to share with their upcoming teacher. Both kindergarten teachers we spoke with noted the excitement and joy they feel in being able to welcome new children into their schools. One Asheville City Schools teacher said, “There are teachers and administrators that are consistently working to provide a safe space for all students to learn and grow. These spaces stem from continued conversations and considerate thought as to what is best for young children. An example of this is that, within my classroom, I advocate for every child’s needs, and work to provide an equitable learning experience for all students. Although these experiences may begin with some anxiety and worry, I also want parents to remember that it will only get better with time, for both parents and students alike. Throughout the year, as structure and routines begin to develop, the anxieties and worries surrounding a student’s transition into kindergarten will only improve as trust and relationships are built.”
- Savor this time
This busy transitional time can be emotional for both parents and children, but it is a brief moment in the grand scheme of things. Children will benefit from knowing their caregivers are all on the same page and are confident and proud of this big step in their lives. “It is normal to be anxious! As the weeks progress, we will get to know each other better and the anxiousness will subside. Enjoy these younger years and don’t stress. Live in the moment. We will love your children as if they are our own. We are a team (teachers, students, and parents) and we can get through anything together.”
Buncombe Partnership for Children can be part of your support team as you help your children prepare for this transition. Please visit our Transition to Kindergarten page for more information and resources.