Ease your child’s move to big school

Many proud parents are looking
forwards to September and the transition of their four year old from being a
pre-schooler to going to ‘big school’ with a mixture of happiness and dread.
While talking up the move to their child for obvious reasons, some may yet be
wondering if they have done enough to prepare their child, for the rigours and
generally stricter environment of a full-time kindergarten class at primary
school. There’s still time to ease those nagging doubts and make the adjustment
easier for you and your child.

Some schools are currently running
summer camps. If your child hasn’t already walked round the school grounds,
ring the school office and find out if that can be arranged, so that they can
get an idea of the scale of the school. Having a mental map of the building,
and its environs, can do a lot to minimise some of the fears they have of
moving to a new school.

Altering their sleep routines

For children who’ve been used to
attending pre-school half-days, or have stayed at home until this point, the
changeover to full days, in a totally alien environment with new friends to
make and new rules, will probably be a huge adjustment.

If your child still takes regular
naps then break that routine gently by bring him/her out of the siesta a few
minutes earlier each day, until they don’t need them at all. This suggestion,
teamed with making bedtime a half hour earlier, can certainly help to keep your
child focused and improve their stamina throughout the school day keeping
crankiness at bay.

Mother of two Janice Wilson, whose
son is an eight year old and whose youngest Gwen starts at Cayman Prep in 2011,
said: “For us getting one of the most important things was simply getting Ewan
into a routine for bedtime, to ensure he had adequate sleep and got up in
plenty time to eat a leisurely breakfast and settle down before the school
run.”

Parents should also talk to their
child about their new teacher. Although you may not have even met them yet,
create a positive image of the teacher as someone who is kind and is looking
forward to meeting your son/daughter in person.

For some children, the start of the
new academic year will be the first time that they will have worn school
uniform. Why not try a few dry runs with getting their uniform on and off to
help them become accustomed to it? And when buying school shoes and sneakers,
try to find footwear with Velcro straps. Fiddling about with laces, especially
when they have to change into P.E. kit during the school day, may be difficult
for little ones who can find laces fiddly.

While not all preschoolers can read
at this stage, all children should know how to spell or recognise their name.
Putting name tags in their school uniforms is a must and will minimise time
spent trying to find items mislaid in school.

Improving social, academic skills

Most preschoolers are used to
out-of-school activities, like swimming, Little League or gymnastics. Not only
are such structured past times useful for developing skill sets, they’re an
invaluable way to meet and make new friends. If you’re child isn’t already
involved clubs, speak to co-workers and friends to find group past times which
can expand your child’s social skills, self-esteem and give them greater
confidence among their peers.

Kindergarten is generally a lot
more structured than preschool and home schooling and may be split into many
more lesson components. It may be helpful to spend part of each week reading to
your child, helping them with fun art projects and reinforcing their basic numeracy
skills. Most of the materials you’ll need can generally be found in the home,
so think creatively and limit the time set for each to no more than 20 minutes.

Now’s the time to dust off your
child’s leaving report from their last school and go through it line by line.
Their former teacher/s will have identified areas of strength and weakness.
Take these as jumping off points and be ready with fulsome praise when even the
smallest improvements are made. Reviewing aspects of the last term’s work can
also help and can keep what has been learned fresh, acting as positive
reinforcement when their recall is good or improves.

Remember that children absorb
information and process it at different rates.

No matter what their aptitudes are,
insure that you spend a minimum of 20 minutes each day reading with your child.
Get them to expand their vocabulary and exercise their brains by letting them
describe the pictures in the stories and encourage them to tell you what they
particularly liked or disliked about each book: a love of reading is vital for
promoting kindergarten readiness.

Become an early bird

Edel Andersen, whose youngest
daughter Ciara is moving from Montessori School of Cayman to Cayman Prep in a
few weeks time, said: “It’s advisable to allow anything up to an additional
half an hour for the drive in, depending on where you live, in the first week
when schools reopen because of increased traffic… I’d also suggest parents
get to school half an hour early to school for the first week. Children will be
a little nervous the first few mornings and having mum or dad close by will be
reassuring.”

She also suggested finding out who
your child’s classmates would be in order to set up a few play dates, so that
they go to school knowing at least one person they can talk to and play with
during recess.

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