To help make that big step easier, I hit up my social media friends and gathered words of wisdom from the trenches: from educators, parents and educator/parents...including some faces you just may recognize! (Feel free to add your own ideas in the comments section!)
Michele Harrison (mom and Early Childhood Educator)
"Create an environment at home that is conducive to oral language development. Children benefit from being able to take part in a conversation, ask and answer questions, share personal stories and retell stories."
Corrie Bell (mom and teacher)
"My biggest thing was realizing that my little one was more ready than I imagined. The amazing Kindergarten teachers "take it away" and really smoothed all my fears. Have faith in your little one, they will (most likely) exceed your expectations and are in good hands!"
Tracy Moore (mom and host of Cityline)
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"We had two different types of kindergarten kids. The eldest walked in shy and reluctant while the little one said, 'Later!' and immediately made 7 friends.
Regardless of the type you have, trust that they are ready to take this step. It's going to be fun, they're going to love it and every transition takes time. The daycare transition was much harder for me and my eldest. He cried so much during drop-offs I got my husband and mom to do it for me. Yes I'm a coward and my heart couldn't take it. But kindergarten was a breeze so just hang on and enjoy the ride!"
"It's just kindergarten, not university!" If the classroom isn't perfect or the teacher is new, it's OK! #1stworldproblems— Lisa @fabfrugalmama (@fabfrugalmama) August 11, 2016
Natalie (mom, via Twitter)
"Don't take it so seriously. Don't be upset if your kids don't do what they're 'supposed' to do (read, write, etc.). Don't let the teacher or kindergarten stress you or your child out. I have three kids, and now that they're older I wonder why I stressed when I was told they couldn't use scissors properly or took too long putting their shoes on...they have no problem doing it now!"
Cheryl Hickey (mom and host of ET Canada, also founder of natural, family-safe product company Ours by Cheryl Hickey)
"Well, truth: I am really not looking forward to my daughter starting preschool! So selfish, I know. This means I have to accept she is growing up. That said, this is not about me!
So for her, we will read some books about first days of school to get her excited. I went and got her her first big girl backpack, just like her brother's but in her favourite colour. Then before the school year ended I took her for a play date at the preschool so she will have a good memory of the place on the day. Other than that I will be like every other parent choking back tears...and maybe a G and T that evening!"
Photo credit: @kittyholland
"1. Encourage your child's independence by letting him carry his own school bag and enter the school/yard/classroom on his own, etc. Make him feel proud to be so big and grown up!
2. Send an extra set of clothes for the classroom if the teachers ask for one, no matter how neat and tidy your child is – and keep another set in his/her backpack if there's room (but make sure he/his teachers know it's there). And be sure to replace items as they get used!
3. Talk with your child about asking for help when he needs it. That's what teachers are for!
4. Don't expect your child to come home and tell you everything about his day, or to be able to answer a big open-ended question like "What did you do today?". Instead work on some specific, easy-to-answer questions to get a discussion going and break his day into smaller chunks, and be sure to model for your child by telling him a little about your own day.
4. Label everything!!"
Jessica Holmes (mom, comedian, author and mental health advocate)
"In Kindergarten it's many children's first time fending for themselves, so we focused on assertiveness. We asked our kids to tell us ways they can be kind and helpful to the teacher and to kids who are struggling and what to do if other kids are being mean or bossy - we actually role played bullying them to prepare our kids to react in the situation, even giving them a shove and grabbing things out of their hands. It was hilarious and we all ended up laughing but it did come in handy for them as every class has a few out of control kids. Our teachers described our kids as being very helpful in class, and that was a big source of pride for me."
Kristen Steinberg (mom and teacher)
"Independence skills are valuable as they help the child build confidence in their own abilities. Examples: opening lunch food containers and baggies, wrappers etc., putting on footwear and coats, washing hands (using soap and paper towel). Also social knowledge: listening, following directions, using manners, treating others with kindness, sharing, taking turns, etc."
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"When your little one starts kindergarten, we moms can be overwhelmed with surprising emotions. We're so excited for our child to begin school and all the wonder that it brings, but we're also torn about saying 'goodbye' at the school gates for the very first time. You're not alone if you feel a mix of thrill, sadness and pride all mixed together.
1) Remember to project confidence in your child's new teacher and school. Your child is looking to you for reassurance they are safe and that you are wholeheartedly behind this wonderful place called school. For nervous kids, you might make a special book or calendar to illustrate how many things are NOT changing, even as one new thing called 'school' is added. The repetition of reading this book together can be very comforting. For instance, illustrate that you will still be making pancakes in the morning and you'll still be cuddling with their teddy bear, and you will still have bath time and bed time routines every day. Also illustrate general things that school will entail, like story time and snack time. My son especially needed these reassuring reminders about his day.
2) Expect your kid to come home exhausted for the first few weeks and months. He/she may even save all their crankiness for you when they get home (mine did!). The many new expectations and challenges take their toll. Don't schedule any big activities in the first month or so, and give them plenty of time to unwind when they get home each day. It looks easy to us, but being a kindergartner is hard work that challenges them emotionally and physically. Learning to control their bodies, wait turns, and follow directions as well as scholastic pursuits is hard work.
3) Go easy on yourself too, mom. There is a reason so many of my friends get puppies when their last child starts kindergarten! We have lots of mothering left in us still, and you are still an indispensable person in your child's life. Enjoy the journey together."
Photos by Lesley Bryce
While you can find an abundance of school books based on licensed characters (Dora, Franklin and the Berenstain Bears all go to school!), there are many other great books out there to help your child get ready for this transition. Here are some of my personal favourites!
For even more ideas, check out this great article written by a mom and Registered Early Childhood Educator:
10 Things I Wish I Knew Before My Child Started Full-Day Kindergarten
If there's anything we've missed here that you think could help new kindergarten parents, please leave a comment below!
(P.S. My apologies for the gender imbalance in this post, but no dads replied to me!)