It’s July. Next comes August hot on its heels of a steamy July. And with it comes the first day of school.
For some, it will be the very first day of school. Starting kindergarten is exciting and overwhelming and amazing. My oldest just finished his kindergarten year. It was absolutely awesome, but it was definitely an adjustment.
Some intentional efforts now can make the adjustment go more smoothly.
1. Eating lunch independently
My son doesn’t like to eat in general. There are very few packable items that he likes. Combine that with his dietary restrictions and the lunch box and it’s a struggle. I was stressed about lunch – if he would eat, if he would eat fast enough, etc.
So we packed a lunch for the pool almost every day of the summer. It gave me an opportunity to figure out what packed well and what he liked to eat. I’d have him practice opening all of his containers by himself and packing them back away at the end of lunch. I also challenged him to get all of his lunch eaten during the 15-minute adult swim.
It was a process we worked on all summer, but it worked. The mom working in the cafeteria (who I met at the pool) even texted me on the first day of school to let me know that he ate. (Insert joyful sigh.)
2. Listening to directions, the first time
That sweet kindergarten teacher cares deeply about your child but she also cares deeply about the up to 25 other kids in the class. There are literally not enough minutes in her day to repeat all of her instructions individually to each child.
She can’t hold your child’s physical or proverbial hand all day to listen and stay on task…she has twenty-five little people to spread her time and attention between. Help her out. Practice only giving instructions one time.
3. Potty procedures
So most kids have probably been potty trained a few years before they go to kindergarten. But in kindergarten, it’s a whole new level of taking care of everything themselves – the clothing, the full-sized toilet, the door closed, the wiping, the handwashing…all of it. Rompers are probably not a good wardrobe choice.
Even my children that are in preschool every weekday morning, generally don’t poop there. They wait until they get home. Which is fine, but the kindergarten day is much longer. Chances are that they are going to need to do their business at some point at school. Make sure they can handle it without a reminder or any assistance.
One of my children recently went through a phase of taking all of their clothes off to go potty. Yeah. That can’t happen at kindergarten. Go ahead and start practicing that now.
Also, for boys, practice using the “pocket” in the underwear to go pee so that they don’t have to drop their whole trousers at the urinal with the big kids.
4. Washing hands
Washing hands is a big deal in our house. It was a big deal at my kids’ preschool too with careful handwashing procedures. That’s not how it works in elementary school at all. If you want to wash your hands, great. But there aren’t reminders before snack or lunch. Just some bottles of hand sanitizer on the desks.
We made it through the whole kindergarten year with only one sick day (that he ended up not actually being sick for). I attribute his wellness to his stellar handwashing and willingness to self-initiate washing hands before snack and lunch.
Practice proper handing washing – wet, lather, scrub, rinse, turn off the sink with a paper towel. Also, practice having them remember themselves to wash hands. That was a challenge for us so my son requested a reminder. Of course I delivered!
5. Initiating friendships
Y’all, kindergarten friendships are hard. We went through attaching himself to a kid in the class that doesn’t follow the rules, being ghosted by his best friend from preschool, and being picked on by the class bully…and that was all in the first month. He made great, amazing friends along the way this past year, but kindergarten requires a whole new level of social discernment from preschool.
There are going to be a lot of new faces, maybe all new faces depending on your situation. At the pool or the park this summer, encourage your child to practice introducing him/herself to a new friend by learning their name and finding something to play together.
Have conversations about looking for someone who needs a friend. I recommend reading the book The Invisible Boy by Tracey Ludwig.
Talk about what healthy friendships look like. I love the book Rulers of the Playground by Joseph Kuefler. Also, remind your child that they don’t have to stand for someone being unkind to them. They can always go play with someone else who is kind.
Know that your child at some point in the year is going to be the instigator (yes, your sweet child) and the victim of difficult friend situations. And that’s ok. They are learning from every interaction. As moms, we need to lay the framework for them to know how to process it and communicate with us about it.
Bonus – Tying shoes
You don’t have to know how to tie your shoes before kindergarten, but it sure is helpful. Your sweet kindergarten teacher will bend down repeatedly all day and tie shoes if needed (even when she is 9-months pregnant and can’t tie her own shoes, thanks Mrs. H!). But in the spirit of fostering independence, it is great for them to tie it themselves.
“But we don’t have any tie shoes!” I hear you. I said the same thing. Then at the end of the summer, my son had a growth spurt and he needed new shoes. And suddenly at size 13, they ONLY make tie tennis shoes. Whoops. And when you are racing to make the bus there is no time for patiently trying to learn. No time. So practice now when life’s pace is a little slower.
Is reading important? Yes. Are math skills great? Yes. But they are not the most important.
Kindergarten teachers meet each child where they are academically whether they come in only identifying letters or reading full sentences. They have all year to work on these skills.
Equip your child with the skills to manage themselves (or as we call it in our house “you do you”). Encourage them to look for someone who needs a friend. Show them how to be kind.
Practice these early and often this summer.
And the other things? Well, they will all work out. I promise.