Getting Ready for Kindergarten

On May 2nd, the CHP Cooperative Community Support committee (thank you Rose Kob!) with the help of local Kindergarten teachers (thank you Carolyn Rivas and Lesley May!) and Kindergarten parents (thank you Pamela Herper and Kristin Brady) presented an evening to help our parents prepare for Kindergarten.

Here is the hand-out I contributed for the event.
 

Getting Ready for Kindergarten—Helpful Tips from Carol!
 

Kindergarten entrance time can be so scary…for grown-ups!  We want the best for our children and when the Kindergarten process seems beyond our control, it is upsetting.  Take heart, there are many things you can do to make your child’s Kindergarten experience more rewarding-and less stressful for you too.

Here is a list of things I did (or in retrospect wish I did) to help my own children have a successful Kindergarten experience. We all live such busy lives, there never seems to be enough time and it seems like we are always playing “catch-up.”  Preparation and planning will go a long way on the road to a smooth transition to Kindergarten.
 

Where to begin:

  1. Sleep is important.  Set a reasonable bedtime and be consistent.  Kindergarten is full-day, full tilt.  If you want your child to enter Kindergarten each day at their best, make sure they get enough sleep!  Structure is important to everyone, especially to your little Kindergartener.  Set a reasonable bed time and stick to it. It would be wise to begin this regime a few weeks prior to the beginning of the school year so that Kindergarten does not get a bad rap for causing an early bedtime! 
  2. Be prepared.  To eliminate potential trials and tribulations in the morning before school, make sure your child’s clothing is set for the next day and all their backpack is ready to go.  If your child brings his or her lunch, it can be prepared the night before. Prepare lunch and place it in the refrigerator so you have one less thing to in the morning.
  3. Lunch Prep. If your child has never eaten lunch at school, or if you get a new lunchbox, practice eating lunch out of the lunchbox prior to the commencement of Kindergarten.  I fed my own children from their lunchbox the summer before Kindergarten began, and they really liked it!  I choose the food they liked for lunch and made sure that they could open the lunch box and containers inside by themselves.
  4. Eat Healthy. Get up in the morning with enough time to eat a good healthy breakfast.  Food is the fuel your child needs to get their day off to a good start.  If your kids are well rested and you are not running about looking for their backpacks or arguing over clothing choices, you might find that you have time to eat breakfast with them!
  5. Morning Activity. There is not enough physical activity in the Kindergartener’s day.  If you can, walk to school and even get in a 15-20 minute run in the park or the schoolyard prior to the commencement of the school day.

Starting Kindergarten:

  1. GET TO SCHOOL ON TIME!  I cannot stress enough the importance of punctuality.  Children need to enter the classroom together, to experience the structure and rituals that are part of the advent of each school day.  When a child is late to school every day, they enter the classroom disadvantaged, almost as an outsider.   Not only will your child benefit from entering the classroom on time, but you must know that our middle schools and high schools are highly competitive.  Applicants are screened not only by academic performance but by absenteeism and lateness.  Getting to school on time will teach your child to be punctual which will serve them well now and for years to come.
  2. Get involved.  Your child’s teacher needs your help.  Volunteer to become a class parent, donate supplies and let your teacher know you are ready, willing and able to do what you can to help out.  Remember that your child is part of the Kindergarten community; what you do for your child’s school and classroom will help everyone in the school, including your child.
  3. Do not overschedule your child.  I scheduled my children’s play dates and afterschool activities on Friday and Saturday because Kindergarten was a long day.  I felt the most important afterschool activity was to let my children run-off steam in the park before we went home.  After a run in the park, we went home and started homework.  When you get home, always check your child’s folder for notes and homework. I never found success leaving homework for after dinner, as dinner time was the best time to talk about my children’s day and decompress.
  4. Have fun!  Always remember that YOU are and will always be your child’s first teacher.  Talk to your children, read books, visit the library, and broaden your child’s horizon by visiting new places and learning new things together.
Caldecott Winner

The 2011 Caldecott Medal and Honor winners were announced this January and recognize the most distinguished picture books for children.   The Caldecott award is a good starting point when selecting books for children, but best practice when buying books for your child is to read the book before you buy it. A book should speak to you or to what you think will speak to your child.

Back to the 2011 Caldecott awards, I was so pleased to find out that Me…Jane by Patrick McDonnell, received a Caldecott Honor.  Ironically, when I first learned about this book, I did not originally purchase it for CHP because I thought a children’s biographic picture book on Jane Goodall might not be for preschoolers.  Soon after, Sandra (our CHP volunteer) arrived to school with the book which she read at snack time.  Before the day was over, I ordered the book for our classroom library. Jane’s life story is dear and the illustrations are lovely and so appropriate for older preschoolers.   The pictures and text captivates, but this book embodies so much more. 

On the title page you will find a black and white photograph of Jane Goodall at about three or four years old.  In her hand is her beloved stuffed monkey named Jubilee—she loved monkeys even then. The book tells the story of Jane and her love of animals.   As a tiny child, Jane had a vision of how she wanted to change the world for the better.  “She was a girl in a time when girls were not encouraged to pursue adventurous careers.”   Despite this fact and that Jane Goodall was not a child of a wealthy family, at ten years old, she decided that she would go to Africa and help animals. 

This book serves as a reminder that little ones can have big dreams and sometimes those dreams do come true.

Holiday Ideas

I get a daily electronic newsletter for Early Childhood professionals, filled with articles, tips, and ideas.  I thought it would be fun to share something I loved from a recent installment. 

The 5 Best Toys of All Time--published in Wired Magazine.

Here is the list:
1. Stick
2. Box
3. String
4. Cardboard Tubes
5. Dirt
 

You might want to add another item to the list, perhaps a ball or a roll of tape.  As the holidays are almost upon us, it might be nice to know you do not have to fight the crowds at the toy store as many of the items on this list can be found in your home or backyard.  One of my favorite holiday memories is when my mother told me I could KEEP the roll of Scotch Tape I was using to wrap presents.  Kids still love tape, a lot!
 

Here are some fun things to do during the holiday from CHP:
 

Make some play dough ~ A nice gift idea would be to purchase some fun new cookie cutters, a rolling pin, or even a garlic press to use with the play dough. You can try some unusual food coloring colors and see what happens when you make different colors and mix the colored play dough together. Get your child a large professional cookie sheet so that they play with the dough in one place and it does not travel throughout your home. If you keep the mess at a minimum, odds are you will be doing a lot of play dough manipulation this winter.
 

Just in case you haven’t made play dough yet, here is the recipe:
 

  • 4 cups of flour
  • 1 cup of salt
  • 4 cups of water
  • 4 tablespoons of oil
  • 1/2 cup cream of tartar
  • a few drops of food coloring
     
  1. Mix the ingredients in a pot and cook over a low heat.Stir often.
  2. Cook until the play dough is completely formed and no longer sticky.
  3. Let the dough cool and store in a clean zip-loc bag.
  4. You can store the play dough refrigerator for a fun sensory experience of using cold dough.
     

Make some colored macaroni ~ Here is an easy mess-free activity to keep your children in colored macaroni.  Ziti, Rigatoni, or pasta with large holes is the best for stringing. 

  1. Get yourself some food coloring and a box of zip-loc bags.
  2. Pour enough pasta to fill about 1/3 of the zip-loc.
  3. Make one squeeze of food coloring into the bag with just a splash of rubbing alcohol.
  4. Close the bag and give it a good shake and massage. Your children can help with this.
  5. Add more food color if needed.
  6. When every piece of pasta looks coated, take a cookie sheet covered in a grocery bag—this way, when you pour the pasta on the cookie sheet, clean-up is so easy.
  7. Put the thoroughly dried pasta into a clean zip-loc and discard the soiled grocery bag. Nothing to wash!

 

Make a few color and pasta shape choices and keep each one in a clean zip-loc. Moms, Grandmas and friends just LOVE pretty macaroni necklaces to wear for the holidays. You can also make a lovely garland for your Christmas tree.  Macaroni stringing is a great fine motor activity. You can also count the number of macaroni “beads” used and even experiment with making a pattern with the pasta shapes and colors. 
 

Enjoy your holiday time together with your family.  Health and happiness to all for the New Year.

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