By Philippe Caron M.A., SOSteacher tutor and kindergarten teacher at the Centre de services scolaires de Montréal (CSSDM).
As a preschool teacher, I’m regularly asked how to prepare my child for kindergarten. Over the years, I’ve noticed that this transition can be a source of anxiety and even stress for parents. Over the next few lines, I’ll be offering a few tips to make this transition as smooth as possible.
Preparing your child for kindergarten without projecting your anxiety as a parent
First of all, it’s important to understand that the main source of anxiety for children making the transition to kindergarten comes from their parents, who, through their words and gestures, share their emotions. It’s therefore essential to focus on the positive aspects of this transition, and not to verbalize your fears in front of your child. Always remain enthusiastic about the transition to kindergarten.
Learning through play
I’d like to clarify another important point right away. Although the kindergarten class is mostly located in an elementary school, it mainly adopts an adidactic approach, i.e. learning through play. This is something to keep in mind when discussing kindergarten with your child.
The aim of preschool education is to familiarize children with the alphabet, mathematics and other academic subjects. Under no circumstances should you force your child to learn letters and numbers, as this could discourage him or her.
The role of kindergarten: preparing children to become students
Don’t hesitate to have fun with words and sounds, and to teach him to recognize the letters in his name, for example, but do so in a pleasant atmosphere. Explore numbers and letters with him if he asks for it, but under no circumstances should you impose academic learning on him under the pretext of being ready for school. Keep in mind that the role of kindergarten is to prepare the child to become a student who will learn to write and calculate. By the end of kindergarten, they should know most of the letters of the alphabet and the numbers from 0 to 10, not at the start of the school year!
Kindergarten is different from daycare
I think it’s important to discuss the differences and similarities between daycare and kindergarten with your child. In practical terms, there are many similarities and few differences. Just as in daycare, your child will experience free play, participate in group games, have snacks and meals with friends, sing songs and nursery rhymes, have storybooks read to him/her, and so on. He’ll move around in new places that he’ll quickly get used to: a classroom with a bigger ratio, a gigantic gymnasium, new games, new friends… In short, a fabulous adventure awaits him.
Establish benchmarks with your child to familiarize him or her
To prepare your child for kindergarten, it’s important to identify and highlight landmarks that will help him or her acclimatize. Visiting his future classroom helps a lot, if possible, but so does walking the path to school with him a few times during the summer, and playing in and around the schoolyard to create positive memories. Take the opportunity to talk to him about the start of the new school year and the older friends he knows who are already at school. Just seeing them around the school will fill him with joy and reassurance.
Autonomy that starts with trust
Finally, I think it’s important to mention a key aspect of preschool education: autonomy. The rather high ratio of kindergarten means that your child will need greater autonomy to dress himself, go to the toilet, tidy up, use pencils, scissors, etc. To give him the necessary confidence, don’t hesitate to praise him for these small achievements. To give him the confidence he needs, don’t hesitate to congratulate him on these small successes. Adopt a positive approach: “You got dressed all by yourself, bravo!” or “You’re going to impress your teacher”. Remind him that he’s ready for kindergarten.
To recap, to prepare your child for kindergarten, remember:
- that you are the main engine of enthusiasm ;
that play is a very important part of kindergarten;
- that letters and numbers are fun;
that kindergarten is the logical continuation of daycare;
- highlight familiar landmarks (friends, games, places already frequented);
- emphasize that he’s ready for kindergarten.
In conclusion, preparing your child for kindergarten should be done with a positive attitude. Remember that, after all, it’s a fabulous adventure that awaits him. Make sure your child has a sense of familiarity around him, and that includes his school supplies. Stay calm, trust him and go shopping for his school supplies with him. And while you’re at it, why not buy him a new pair of shoes that he’ll be proud to show off to his new friends?
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