Kindergarten, here we come! Erm… Well… Maybe you and your child aren’t feeling quite so ready for elementary school given the state of the world right now. And I’m here to share that what you’re feeling is totally normal. No need to be so hard on yourself – we’re going through a global health pandemic, after all!
Under the looming uncertainty of COVID-19, there is one thing for sure for parents with newly school-aged kids: preparing for Kindergarten has unexpected challenges beyond the typical “back-to-school handbook.” But, as we send our young learners to school this fall – in person, or online – it’s important to remember that this is still a significant time for our little ones, and we are capable of guiding them through the process. Children are very perceptive to the changes in the world around them, and it’s up to us to prepare them for what going to school will look and feel like in the fall.
Here are a few tips from me and my partners at First 5 LA on how you can prepare your child and your family for Kindergarten, whether that’s virtual school or face-to-face.
Preparing For Virtual Schooling
- Mimic A Virtual Class
Before school starts, prepare for Zoom classes by setting a timer during mock lessons that will help your child better understand what five minutes feels like. This teaches early learners how to be respectful of their peers’ and their own talking time, while learning to work on a schedule.
- Pay Attention To Your Child’s Cues
While you’re going through online practice lessons, pay close attention to your little one’s physical and emotional cues, such as fidgeting, wiggling around or expressing feelings of frustration – this might indicate that they need a break, or want to release built-up energies. If that’s the case, take a few minutes to do some indoor yoga or go for a quick walk. Breathing exercises may also help, and children can learn to “smell the flower” when they breathe in, and “blow out the candle” when they breathe out.
- Invite a Fluffy Classmate For Company
It’s not uncommon for your little one to begin feeling lonely after hours of online learning every day. To prepare for this, give them a classmate they can give a big squeeze when they need it – a plush one, that is! Having a teddy bear for your child that you can prop up on a chair next to them while class is in session is a great way to give them a physical buddy at home as they engage with other classmates and friends through the screen.
Preparing For In-Person Schooling
- Practice Health Rules With Your Child
Students need to stay safe, just like everyone else, during this time and guidelines may vary from school to school. However, your little ones may not intrinsically know how to properly apply these rules, so as parents, we must help our young learners navigate safety guidelines such as wearing masks at school, staying six feet apart, washing their hands properly and coughing into their sleeves. These habits may seem foreign to your child at first, but the saying is especially true here – practice does make perfect.
- Teach Your Child How To Safely Socialize
We know that socializing plays an important role in regulating your child’s mood and furthering their development. We also know that your children are probably bouncing off the walls, ready to have fun with their new school friends. But, with COVID-19 still spreading, it’s important to educate your Kindergartener on safe ways to socialize with their new buddies. Consider showing them how to give a “socially-distanced hug” by giving an air high-five or by gesturing a hug to their classmates. Or because your child will be wearing a face mask, which can impact their ability to fully display emotions, send them to school with “feeling faces” attached to the end of popsicle sticks for an easy way in which they can express their emotions!
Bonus Tips For Overall Kindergarten Preparation
- Talk To The Teacher About Expectations
Check in with your child’s teacher ahead of time – if school will be face-to-face, what practices are they planning on implementing in their classroom that you can practice with your child prior to the start of Kindergarten? If class is virtual, what behaviors can you begin teaching at home?
- Check In With Your Child’s Emotions
Between juggling family, work life and COVID-19, it’s easy to get caught in all of the chaos and stress around the pandemic. This makes it even more important to set aside time for emotional check-ins with your child to ask them simple, but key questions like, “how’s your heart?” “how’s your mind?” and “how’s your body?”
- Take The Time To Reinforce Social And Emotional Development
Let’s be the best partners we can to Kindergarten teachers, as they are also doing the best they can to continue to educate our children. That being said, some ways to support the class-based teaching is to also find time at home to strengthen your child’s social-emotional skills, which will make the teaching and learning process a whole lot smoother for your child and your family. This includes things like practicing receptive language skills such as understanding 1- or 2-step instructions and sustaining attention for 10-15 minutes during story or circle time.
Parents, you’re already doing amazing in navigating unchartered territory and keeping things as normal as possible for your child. So please remember to be kind to yourself, too, while you continue to celebrate who your child is and accentuate their strengths. They will no doubt be successful in Kindergarten and well-beyond. Stay lifted!