If you are living in Australia you will be preparing for the big adjustment that comes with the end of our glorious 6 weeks of Summer holidays…..back to school!
For those returning to school, ready to start a new school year there will be new teachers, some new classmates, new books and new uniforms (if the queue at my son’s school this morning was anything to go by!).
Then there are those little one’s who will be starting school or kindergarten for the first time. For the 3 or 4 year olds starting kindy it could be a huge adjustment. Maybe they have never been away from their parents of family members or in a group environment before?
Here are my suggestions to make it a happy experience. Written as someone who has been on both sides of the kindy gate, leaving someone so precious into the care of others and the lucky one caring for other peoples beautiful children!
1.Familiarise your child with the environment and educators
Many Children’s Houses will have an Infants’ House program. This is an excellent introduction for the children. The children attend with a parent or carer but they become familiar with Montessori equipment and behaviour expectations and even better they are part of the Children’s House environment and become familiar with the Educators.
If there isn’t a playgroup or facility for younger children then bring your child with you when you visit the kindy to have an interview, complete the enrolment etc.
If your child’s enrolment is confirmed prior to the holidays perhaps you could volunteer to visit and water the gardens once a week? This creates a connection for your child and a sense of belonging.
Do they have a kindy t-shirt or hat? Start wearing it in the lead up to the first day so that there are no scratchy label surprises! Some children become very proud of their new kindy even before they start, just through the association of a special hat or t-shirt!
2. Check the prospectus or other communication from the centre to make sure that you will have everything right from the start.
Nothing puts a spanner in the works like a missing hat! No hat, no play!
Make sure that your child is wearing Sunsafe clothes with covered shoulders.
Even if your child is fully toilet trained (required for most kindergarten situations) please send spare, seasonally appropriate, clothes. Washing hands independently in the early days can be a very messy experience, never mind all the painting and creating that goes on!
Make sure you child has their own cup or water bottle. A dehydrated child is often a cranky or listless child!
Sheets that fit the mattress provided by the centre and that have a relaxing pattern…….please no Spiderman……..we don’t want anyone trying to climb the walls! :0
If you do forget something please speak to an Educator and they can provide a spare or an alternative. If you do need to get something and return with it either let you child know you will be doing this and you are not returning to pick them up or make an arrangement with the Educator so you can leave the item somewhere and not be seen!
Make sure they have had a filling breakfast. Morning tea often wont start until 10am and than in small groups at a time. Make sure they have had something that will keep them going like an egg or porridge.
Make sure they have had a quiet day before and a good nights sleep. It will be a big day for them no matter how they handle it but if they are sleep deprived it will be messy!
5. Do leave enough time for the unexpected.
However if you are late then accept that you are and don’t rush about stressing out yourself and your child. Be aware that the session will have already started and be considerate of the children working.
In other words please be quiet and wait patiently until you have the Educator’s attention. They will guide you through the arrival procedure.
Every morning I greet each child with a smile and wish them “Good morning” while shaking their hands and look into their eyes. This is saying to the child that I know they have arrived and I am there to help them. That they have passed into my care now. Beautiful isn’t it!
6. Do walk hand in hand with your child.
If they are old enough for kindy they can walk and carry at least some of they gear in a backpack. It is a very confusing message to carry your child into kindy I think. On one hand you are saying you are a baby and you still need me to do this for you and then you are saying “Goodbye”.
7. Do say “Goodbye” and be clear when you will be back to collect your child.
Sneaking off because your child is momentarily distracted mostly ends in tears when they realise you are gone.
Be clear to your child that you are going now to do your work, jobs, chores and that you will be back at 2pm after they have had their rest or lunch or whenever you have arranged with the Educators. DONT BE LATE!
If someone else is coming to collect them make sure they know this (and the Educators know too).
8. When it’s time to go, then go, don’t hesitate.
Your child knows you. You hesitate and they can sense it. They may think “Mum is having second thoughts…..maybe I should too……..maybe if I make a fuss she will change her mind”.
Some children will even feel guilty that they are leaving you! If they see you upset they feel the need to comfort you and may worry about you!
If children are crying or upset over separation an experienced or enthusiastic Educator will have them laughing and engaged quickly. If not they will contact you.
9. Make sure you are contactable.
Make sure you have your phone charged and on or your other contacts know they need to be available.
You may receive a courtesy call to let you know that you desolate sobbing child is now deeply involved in spooning rice, doing a puzzle, playing bingo, drawing a picture or organising a group of children in a music activity.
Occasionally though it may be a call to say they aren’t coping or they are unwell.
10. Allow your child to unpack their belongings.
If they put them away then they will know where to find them! Simple.
11. Do keep independence in mind when choosing belongings.
Label everything, preferably in lower case so they can recognise their name.
Clothes – Dress them in comfortable play clothes e.g. it doesn’t matter if they get paint on them.
Clothes that they can get in and out of independently e.g. elasticated waist, no belts, no zips down the back or hundreds of buttons, no long flowing skirts that hang into the toilet or stop them from running and climbing.
Try to avoid cuffs and pockets as they end up full of sand!
Think about sandals in the beginning if they are having trouble with shoes and socks. Once they are settled at kindy they will be better able to respond positively to challenges!
Hair – up if long enough or a hairband to keep it out of their eyes
Food containers – If they can’t recognise their name yet then ask them to choose a sticker and put that near their name to help them find the right lunch box. Have one container with compartments rather than lots of loose containers. Make sure they can open it (or are working towards this). Don’t overfill containers e.g. yoghurt spilt all over the table and floor isn’t great for anyone’s confidence!
Food – healthy food with minimal packaging, that will keep (no avocado sandwiches that go brown please!).Food that they like!
If the guideline is fruit for morning tea and a savoury lunch then this is what you need to provide for your child. That is what all the other children will be having. Anything else may be required to be left in the lunch box for afternoon tea at home.
12. Be on time to collect your child
If you have made an arrangement to pick a child up early, say after lunch, then be there on time. The Educators will have assisted the child to pack their bag, get their shoes on and be ready for you. Your child maybe be tired and being brave and wanting to see you so badly that even a minute or two late can cause them to breakdown and then you have broken their trust.
If they are upset ask them about their day and listen to what they tell you or show you. Tell them about your day….preferably jobs you have done, not coffee and cake with friends!
If you say “It’s OK I’m here now” the message you are sending is that it’s not OK when you aren’t there.
Do you have any words of wisdom to share?
Reading back through this I’ve realised that it doesn’t just apply to young children hoping for a smiley start to their next adventure.