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SO I realized when my son was about to turn 3 (he is a December baby) that in 9 SHORT months that he would be starting school. My baby would be a BABY when he started junior kindergarten. I was very freaked out… and PREGNANT with my second baby. It was all I could do to not cry about it… my decision to get prepared was out of fear of him being completely unprepared. There were a number of things I did to get him ready AND he WAS ready ans I am so glad that I did. I was advised by my cousin who is an Early Childhood Educator, the school supplied suggestions, as well as a lot of online research. I am in no way an expert and that being said the following article is just how I prepared my son and myself and is in no way expert advice! Use this info as you see fit!
One of our greatest resources was the Ontario Early Years Centre in our town. We are so blessed to have such a great centre for parents to lean on and learn along with their kids. I have taken a few parent programs and we were going to the centre almost weekly (sometimes up to 3 times a week) to just play and enjoy the facility. Where we live the facility has a running room (a big room with bikes and space for the kids to move even on a rainy day) as well as a family room with toys, books and craft supplies. On most days the ladies that run the centre do story time where the kids learn about sitting in a circle and listening to instruction. They also have a program called Kids First which is like a nursery school program run by some of the most wonderful ladies. Unfortunately my son never made it off the waiting list but any of the kids in his play group who got in got very OBVIOUS benefits from that program to prepare them for kindergarten. I learned a lot about what my son needed to get prepared from the OEYC for sure. I learned that he hated sitting in a circle, he was good at play learning, he was a very visual learner and he was good at making new friends (as long as he introduced himself by his full name). I suggest if you live in Ontario that you see what the Early Years has to offer in your community. Like I said before we are SO lucky that we have such a great centre and our county helps a lot with funding.
My local OEYC Facebook page posted the video from Today’s Parent that sums up some really important things.
The most important thing (especially for the younger kids starting when they are 3) is potty training. Teachers can’t help kids in the bathroom so it is VITAL they can use the toilet, pull up their pants and wipe themselves clean. I know that we worked really hard on getting my son prepared for this before school. The Early Years Center was an excellent place to practice him going in on his own and doing it all by himself. I can say we accomplished this task before school started even if he had a few accidents at the beginning.
This next item goes “hand in hand” (pun intended) with the potty training point. Washing their hands on their own is VERY important. I know that my son has been in school for three months and is on his third round of a cold. I’m still working hard on getting him to use soap every time but he is getting better all the time. If you want to ward off the gross bugs that go along with starting school get your kids used to washing their hands before and after eating, after the washroom and anytime they touch community toys. This is hard I know with toddlers but they will catch on if you make this normal. The video above suggests getting them to sing a song while they do it to ensure they do it long enough and this has worked for my son and myself. We sing twinkle twinkle little start start to finish every time!
Another important thing you and your chid must master before school is dressing themselves. There are usually up to 30+ kids in each kindergarten class and the teacher can’t help dress each and every one of them. This is very helpful for your teacher if you can get your kid to dress themselves. If they have an accident (trust me it will happen no matter how prepared you are) you want them to be able to put on their own underwear and pants. When they get wet socks they should be able to change them on their own. When going out for recess and home at the end of the day you want them to be able to put on their own coats, gloves and shoes. Get them shoes that are velcro or have no ties so they can put them on easily. Mabel’s Labels has a great product for helping them put on their shoes on the right feet as well as label them so they come home:
Another very important thing to learn is how they can open and close their lunch containers. The first step is to get kid friendly containers. I talk a lot about this in my post about What To Buy For Kindergarten. I love love LOOOOOVE the Yumbox and how easy it is for the little hands to get open and closed and it is leak proof. Teachers and classroom ECE’s have a lot of kids to support in a day and they can’t open containers for everyone. I still help my son along by opening applesauce pouches and replacing the lids, taring the wrapped items like granola bars and I even take the straw out of the rewrapped package and tape it to his juice box to help him do it on his own. This will help his teachers and the support team by freeing up that little bit of time for other kids who might actually need the help.
We faired pretty good on that list of things to learn. We got most of them mastered or nearly mastered by the end of August. My son is lucky to have a smaller class with only 20 kids and so I don’t have to worry too much about him not getting the help he might need. Some kids aren’t so lucky so if they have a parent who can help them with the above list they will be that much further ahead when they start kindergarten! Best of luck to all the moms and dads who have kids who are starting the big JK this coming fall! Time to get to work!