Kindergarten -- Get Your Kid Geared for Success

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by Julie Snyder

Kindergarten ReadinessSeems like it was yesterday that you were changing diapers, listening for first words and watching your child learn how to walk. How did your "baby" get so big and ready for kindergarten already?

It isn't a total surprise that kindergarten was coming. After all, you registered for school last spring. You went to the open house and met the teachers. Everything should go smoothly, right?

It's okay to feel a mixture of excitement, worry and a bit of sadness. After all, this is a huge milestone and end of an "era" for your child. If you're concerned about sending your child off to school, these tips can help make the big day easier for both of you.

Kindergarten Readiness

How can you help your child get ready? Here are a few ideas:

Read books about going to school. Showing your child what happens at school can help with the first day jitters. While you can't learn everything from a book, your child can see what other kids found fun and what worried them. Check your library for one of these titles:

"Tiptoe into Kindergarten," by Jacqueline Rogers
"Vera's First Day of School," by Vera Rosenberry
"Look Out Kindergarten, Here I Come," by Nancy Carlson
"The Kissing Hand," by Audrey Penn
"The Night Before Kindergarten," by Natasha Wing and Julie Durrell

Early to bed -- early to rise. It's time to move bedtime earlier every night by having your child read in bed before lights out. It doen't hurt for you to go to bed earlier as well, so you can deal with the morning rush and get everyone off to a happy start.

Practice greeting each other. Play a game together. Smile and say, "Hi. My name is Mommy." After your child quits giggling, have her pretend you're a child she doesn't know and say, "Hi. My name is Zander." Try out other situations that might crop up at school. Having definite tools in his or her belt makes the first day a breeze.

Discuss embarrassing issues. "What if I need to go to the bathroom?" "What if I break my pencil?" What if I can't find the door?" Talk about what to do and who can help you. If your child has other worries, find solutions to those, too.

Pick out school supplies and a first-day-of-school outfit. Explain to your child that these supplies and clothes are special and being saved until the big day. You can bring them out and admire them every now and then.

3, 2, 1...countdown! Make starting school something to look forward to, like your birthday or Christmas. Put a calendar or poster on the wall. Mark the first day of school. Every morning cross off another day. If you're feeling creative, add an activity to some days, like "shop for a lunch box" or "pack your backpack."

Write your name. Practice writing names with your child. If that task has been nailed down move on to writing your address and phone number. If your child gets that down too, practice having them memorize phone numbers and addresses.

Add a note or picture to your child's pack. Some kids find saying goodbye hard. Add a laminated picture of the family or a love note or paper "I love you" heart to their lunchbox or pack.

Wave a cheerful goodbye. In the week before school begins, make up a ritual. You might give a hug and say, "I love you, you love me, have a great day and I'll see you at three!" If tears well up when you part, use your goodbye routine, let your child know you think they'll do great and that you'll be waiting at the end of the day.

Join the "Boo-Hoo Party," a program for parents who have a hard time on their child's first day of school. If your district doesn't have one, head home and re-read "The Kissing Hand."

The book tells of a mother raccoon's attempt to ease her son into the first day of school with a comforting kiss to his hand. Chester went off to school, and he survived. Guess what? You will, too.

Is your child excited about starting school or a bit apprehensive? What are you doing to make the first day run smoothly?

Photo courtesy of istockphoto.