The summer before Kindergarten starts is a wonderful time to get your kiddos excited about what’s to come, whether it’s months or weeks before school starts in late August. Take a look at the best practices below, pull out a few that resonate with you and your partner (and your kiddo), and do your best. Overall, remember how we feel when we start a new job and have many new things to navigate: new coworkers, a new boss, a new culture, new rules and policies, and a new physical space. We discuss this and a lot more in our monthly classes that run September – February every year.
Things to do the summer before Kindergarten
1). Talk about Kindergarten early and often, when it’s a natural discussion point during your day. Discuss that it will be really exciting and maybe scary, too. Use books/TV shows to help, as well as your kiddos’ friends who are excited to go.
2). Make sure you are working up to your child being able to wipe his/her own behind after using the bathroom, as this is required at most Kindergarten classrooms. NOTE: You can send wet wipes to school with your child, but who knows if they will actually remember them…
3). If possible, play on the playground while the school is closed in the summer so that you child can be familiar with at least one aspect of his/her new school. NOTE: Keep in mind that some schools use separate playgrounds for ECE/Kinder and the rest of the students.
4). “Like” your school’s Facebook page so that you can stay up to date with updates, events, etc.
5). Subscribe to your school’s and/or the DPS email newsletter to remain up to date re: deadlines, events, etc. This will typically be on the website.
6). Find out if your school(s) are serving free breakfast and lunch, as another opportunity to visit: http://foodservices.dpsk12.org/summer-meal.php.
7). Practice independent tasks like: going to the bathroom (unbuttoning and fastening pants), dressing (changing clothes, zipping coats, and fastening shoes), eating lunch (opening juice boxes), separating from parents, knowing full name and phone number, and following two-step directions.
8). If you are still on a wait list(s), check your numbers (they can change all summer), and talk to you partner about what you would do if you get a call close to or even after school starts. NOTE: K-12 wait lists stay open until September 30th, ECE wait lists stay open all the way until April.
9). One month before Kindergarten starts, sync bedtime and wake-up times to the upcoming school schedule. Five-year olds need about 11-12 hours of sleep per day to be ready to learn.
Things to do the weeks before Kindergarten
1). Talk about how many night-time sleeps before Big Boy/Big Girl Kindergarten, focus on the best parts: new friends, new toys, new books, new clothes (if that resonates), and talk honestly about exactly what will happen: You will take the bus or I will drive you, then we will go in together to your classroom (or, I walk you to the door and you walk in with your friends), you will play in one classroom for most of the day, and then you will get to go outside and play on the playground, then you get to each lunch in a big, cool lunchroom with some of the kids at your school, then you will go back to your classroom and learn/read some more, then you will get all of your stuff and I will meet you outside (work with the PTO/school to determine schedule).
2). Continue to play on the playground while the school is closed in the summer so that your child can be familiar with at least one aspect of his/her new school.
3). Call the school office and ask for your kiddo’s Kindergarten teacher’s name and room number (they may or may not know or want to share).
4). Call the school office and ask if you can bring your child in a few times before official orientation/registration and wander around to familiarize yourselves (usually in the first 2-4 weeks before school starts). Then, simply walk your child around the school without any distractions: take him/her to their classroom/Kindergarten classrooms, to the bathrooms, the office, the gym, library, computer lab, cafeteria, playground, etc. Ask your kiddo to find the bathroom from his/her classroom, and then back. Ask her to find the office from his/her classroom, and then back.
5). Reach out to the school PTO contact to ask about resources for new students like incoming Kindergarten play dates.
6). Play “kindergarten” at home. Think of a fun way to say good-bye and hello.
7). Ask your child what questions they have; what they are happy about, what they are scared about, etc.
8). If you are still on a wait list(s), check your numbers (you can get a call any time up until September 30th– 5 weeks after schools starts.
9).If your kiddo has a 504 or Individual Education Plan (IEP), you can reach out to the school’s Special Education Team in anticipation of school starting. This typically includes the Counselor/Psychologist, interventionists, classroom teacher, and can include the Assistant Principal or Principal, too.
10). If your kiddo needs to take medication during the school day, reach out to the school’s nurse and front office staff, as they will be the ones to administer.