Only a few weeks left to go until us anxious mommies (and daddies) send our little ones off on one of their biggest adventures yet — Kindergarten!
If you’re a first-time Kindergarten Parent such as myself, you’re definitely left with so many questions & concerns that you’re dying to have answered. On top of the obvious nervousness, it’s a very exciting milestone for your child and all part and parcel of their wonderful journey to discovery and growth.
Who am I kidding?
I am chewing my nails off, reading every single article there is out there about Kindergarten making sure my little girl is more than prepared, asking many more seasoned moms and dads tons of questions, tackling the early back-to-school shopping (even before they hit the shelves) and fending off premature tears.
Glad to know that this is normal and I’m not just one unbalanced and delirious mother that’s blowing this way out of proportion.
I was able to gather some more great questions from other first-timer mom’s and dad’s and luckily was able to have them answered from a friend that also happens to be a Designated Early Childhood Educator.
Whether you’re enrolling your child in full-day or half-day Kindergarten, hopefully by answering these questions, it will ease the anxiety for you and for your child who is starting kindergarten.
1) What can we expect our child to experience on their first day/week?
School is an exciting experience. At first, your child may be nervous about being way from home. Your attitude toward the start of school can help set a positive tone.
If you do feel anxious or worried, try not to pass those feelings along to your child.
The first day and even the first week, will be a busy one. It will be a day that the child gets to meet his/her teacher and D.E.C.E., meet new friends, and familiarize and explore the classroom. Routines are not implemented yet until a few days or until the majority of the children seem settled in. However, routines will be introduced to begin the flow of the day for the children.
2) What’s an average day like?
The kindergarten classroom is alive with activity centres, artwork, toys, learning spaces, creative materials, books, letters and words, dress-up clothes, art supplies, listening centres, sand and water tables, child-size furniture, blocks, puzzles, games, paper, writing tools, and much more. Many classrooms have computers, plants, and pets.
Children benefit from a variety of learning activities, including listening to stories, singing songs, chanting poems, solving math problems, investing science, and creating through art. Children learn through play. Each child’s emotional and social development, oral, reading, writing, math, and science abilities are matured in rich, real-life contexts.
Every day, the educators provide exciting activities. Children explore, discover, inquire, and problem-solve together. The educators also provide intentional instruction to the large group, small groups, and individual children, based on each child’s developmental learning stage. Children also participate in daily outdoor or indoor physical activity.
3) Are parents allowed to pop in?
Depending on how the child is adjusting or adjusted, parents are recommended not to pop in.
If your child is having a bit of a hard time settling in to the program, seeing their parent in the classroom may not be the best idea as the child may get the idea that they are going home or that you will always be in the classroom with them.
An Open House or “Kindergarten Night” event is coordinated for just for parents to attend with their child to come in and explore their child’s classroom and find out what a day in the life of their child is like.
Volunteering at your child’s school is a great way to say informed and contribute to your child’s success. There are many volunteer opportunities,
• Preparation of arts and crafts supplies
• Baking for bake sales
• Classroom reading buddies
• Membership on school council or attendance at school council meetings
• Coordination of hot lunch or pizza days
• Field trip supervision
• Concert/special event assistance
• Welcoming new families, proving help with translation/interpretation
• Helping with the school’s environmental program, e.g. garden planting or recycling.
4) What if my child does #2? What’s provided for them to clean themselves? Do the teachers assist?
Parents are encouraged to practice washroom routines like flushing the toilet, washing hands and dressing before their child starts school. If your child does a “number 2″ at school, the child is provided with the necessities to clean themselves – toilet paper and water.
Unfortunately, the teachers cannot physically help the child during this time.
If the child soils himself and is unable to clean themselves, a phone call will be made to the parents to come and help out. Parents are told to bring a spare change of clothes in case.
Accidents still happen during kindergarten and are completely normal. The spare clothes are also used to change in to for days when your child has a really busy day and gets dirty.
5) What if my child or another child is behaving badly, how are they disciplined? What’s the course of action?
Children are positively redirected if and when any inappropriate behaviours arise. As mentioned previously, children learn through play. They also learn problem-solving, creative thinking, and essential social skills.
As educators, we want to find out what, if any, is causing these behaviours so that we can help the child understand how to fix the situation without it escalating.
6) My child is allergic to certain foods. How do you monitor whether or not she/he is not exposed to any of it, especially during lunchtime?
In cases where your child has a food allergy, the educators, including the other kindergarten educators from other classrooms, are made aware of this.
Schools have made it a point to make their environments a peanut and nut-free environment which may be made clear by posters displayed around the school.
Newsletters are sent home to stress the importance of packing a peanut and nut-free lunch.
During lunch time, either the educators or a lunchroom supervisor will monitor what the children are eating.
7) What items do you recommend we pack in our child’s backpack each day? What is not necessary?
If possible, the child’s backpack should be large enough to fit an 8×10 sheet of paper without folding it.
This is because it needs to hold your child’s artwork, important letters from the school, the child’s lunch and snacks, and extra clothes.
Sending your child with crayons, markers, toys, etc., are not necessary as the children are provided with all these materials at school.
We also don’t want any of the child’s belongings to “accidentally” end up in another child’s backpack or even break while it’s being shared with the other children.
8 ) Are the kids monitored well at the end of day when they are being picked up or getting on school bus?
Every school will have a different way of safely dismissing the children at the end of the day.
The educators ensure that the child gets picked up and sent home with the appropriate adult or sibling.
As for the bus routine, there are always educators on duty to help make sure the children safely get on the appropriate bus.
9) What are your top 3 back-to-school must-haves for Kindergarten students?
Your child should have a backpack, a nutritious snack and lunch, and an ideal wardrobe for “power learning” including:
• In the course of an average kindergarten class, your child will jump, run, walk, bounce, stretch, crouch, bend, and sit in a chair or on the floor. Choose clothes and footwear that will be comfortable during all of these activities.
• Choose clothes, jackets, shoes, and boots that are easy to put on, take off, and fasten.
• Kindergarten children learn best when they explore, discover and experiment – in other words, get messy. Choose clothes that are durable and easy to clean.
• Outdoor play is an important part of the kindergarten program. Your child needs outdoor clothing for all types of weather.
10) What is your advice for parents sending their child to Kindergarten for the first time?
On the first day of school, get yourself and your child up early enough to eat a calm, unhurried breakfast. And keep things as normal as possible – if your child normally has cereal for breakfast, make cereal that morning.
When you say good-bye to your child on the first day, make it quick, light and reassured by a warm hug and a reminder that you, or the usual caregiver, will be there after school is finished.
If you have feelings of anxiety and worry, try not to show those to your child.
After school, plan a special dinner with your child’s favourites to celebrate the first day of school.
Use the first day of school to start some routines that will help make sure the whole school year is great.
One of these is to talk with your child every day about what happened at school – here are some questions that can help to start the discussion:
• Did your teacher read you a story today?
• What did you do in school today that you really liked?
• Did you make a special friend? Who is the special friend, tell me about him/her?
• What do you like best about your teacher or about one of your friends in your classrooms?
• What are you most looking forward to doing tomorrow?
Another good routine to get started on the first day of school is displaying your child’s learning and school creations. After you have looked and talked about it, display it on the fridge. Or create a “gallery” by hanging an inexpensive bulletin board in the hallway at your child’s eye level on which to tack your child’s art, writing and photographs.
Get the art gallery started by having your child draw a picture about the first day of school.
More helpful hints:
• Speak positively to your child about starting school.
• Expose your child to fun activities that include the use of crayons, markers, paint brushes, and scissors, etc.
• Teach your child how to dress themselves.
• Read and look at books with your child.
• Contact the school to find out if there is an Open House or “Kindergarten Night” event you can attend with your child.
• Visit neighbourhood and school playgrounds together.
• Encourage your child to play with other children.
• Practice washroom routines like flushing the toilet, washing hands and dressing.
• Teach your child how to tidy up after themselves.
*Tarra works for the Peel District School Board as the Designated Early Childhood Educator in a Full-Day Kindergarten program. She begin her career working in a private daycare for 7 years before starting with the school board 2 years ago. Since then, she’s seen firsthand the benefits of 4 and 5 years olds beginning school in the Full-Day Kindergarten program.
These answered questions were such a relief to me and I truly hope they help you as well.
Thank you to Tarra for taking the time to answer these questions for me and other parents out there.
If you have any other questions or would like to talk about concerns, I’m available to chat anytime!
After all, it’s so important to keep a close circle of other parents that you can confide in and share stories with.
Wishing you and your little ones a wonderful start to their school year!