Mom: How was your first day of school?
Child: I think I need a new teacher.
Mom: Do you not like your teacher?
Child: I like my teacher very much!
Mom: Then why do you think you need a new teacher?
Child: My teacher doesn’t know anything!
Mom: I don’t understand.
Child: She keeps asking us for all of the answers. She doesn’t even know her colors! She had to ask the class to name them for her.
This is one of those typical yet oh-so-believable kindergarten jokes doing the rounds on the internet lately. Once one’s kid is ready to enter this new and exciting phase of life called kindergarten, parents start wondering what all background work and preparation they need to do with their child, so that the kids are ahead of their peers from the very beginning. The key here is to understand that kindergarten is a milestone which is more about learning social as well as communication skills rather than trying to just surge ahead in academics from such a tender young age. Once the child in question has learnt how cooperation works, how to work in a group as well as alone, how to talk to friends, how to play in a group and how to follow directions, these qualities will always stand him or her in good stead in the coming years of their lives.
So how should you try and prepare your kid for this first, most important year of school? Agreed, professional educators in school will definitely try and do their bit to help your child but then as parents you also have a pretty important role to play.
The most important thing in kindergarten is gelling together as a group. Kids in kindergarten do find it difficult at times to share toys, or collaborate effectively in a group activity such as in a music class. Here is where you step in: Say, a couple of months prior to the time your child is slated to join school, accompany him to group activities in the neighborhood – swimming classes, birthday parties or even summer camps. This will make him more comfortable interacting with other kids his age and you’ll probably notice your kid gradually opening up to others and starting to enjoy himself in a group of like-minded people.
Next comes familiarity with basic alphabets and numbers. Informal ways of learning through play by means of preschool games like these work the best. Or else, try using glow sticks to make this learning task a fun game. Just write out the numbers and alphabets in a large font on a piece of paper and let your kids trace them out with glow sticks, finally taping them in place. Once the lights are on and the alphabets glow, it’ll be like wow! To teach them the different types of shapes, cut out a bunch of shapes – squares, circles, rectangles, diamonds – using colorful felt paper and let your child create objects with them such as trees or flowers or houses or even ghosts, if they so wish.
Drawing and coloring is something a majority of the kids love doing. Provide your child with a thick dark marker and a large drawing book and let him spend time drawing out imaginary and real stuff. This activity also goes a long way in developing fine motor skills in your child since they learn how to develop a proper grip on the pen and model their drawings accordingly. Play dough is another option for kids who love getting everything around them (including themselves!) messy.
Last but not the least, you have to be patient enough to empathize with your child. It may take him some time to settle in to school and this new way of life. Some children adapt very soon, others can take weeks or even months. After all, it is an entirely new world for them, something they have never quite experienced before, having spent the last couple of years of their lives sheltered comfortably at home. This brings me to this short poem called ‘First Day of Kindergarten’ which sums it up perfectly for a new kindergartener.
Everyone has a first day
When they feel sad and all alone
It can be scary when you are on your own
And I know that a first day
Can be full of doubts and fears
But they are full of new beginnings
Take my hankie, dry your tears.
You’ll find lots of things to do
And you’ll probably make new friends
I promise we’ll be together
When the school day ends.
Here comes the teacher
Blow your nose and be brave
Come on now and wipe your eyes
This is no way to behave.
Well, Good Morning, Teacher
We really do beg your pardon
No, Mommy doesn’t always act this way
But it’s my first day of kindergarten!