While everyone else turns their focus to Valentine’s Day each February, elementary schoolteachers and many families know the *real* star this month is Kindergarten registration.

Each elementary school in Pembina Trails School Division holds an annual kindergarten info night (click here for a full list) for parents whose little ones will begin school this fall. These info nights present excellent opportunities for nervous parents to become more familiar with the school and the system – and for teachers and their future students to make first connections. This year, they’ll all be held virtually… but the people will still be there, enthusiasm in tow!

Are you ready for your child to go to school?

I’ll be the first to admit it: as a parent, it’s tough to accept that your baby (wait! it seems she was just a baby five minutes ago! what’s going on?!) is reaching this huge milestone.

Wistful emotional moments aside, I had some advantages when my eldest daughter entered kindergarten. My academic and professional background as both an elementary school teacher and an early childhood educator meant I understood the process. I had all the developmental checklists. I had worked with all kinds of little ones, and knew what they needed to facilitate their learning.

But I wasn’t prepared for my own fear.

I doubted my parenting, and wondered whether my husband (also a teacher!) and I had done enough to prepare our wee girl for school. I tortured myself thinking she was doomed by our inadequate preparation.

I think all parents suffer through this to some degree. It’s difficult to let our babies go, and school gives us yet another front to worry about.

If this is you, know you’re not alone. And there’s a whole community of us around you to help.

Helping your child be ready, too

In the six months between now and the new school year, there’s lots parents and Early Childhood Educators can do to prepare your child and make the transition to kindergarten smooth sailing.

  • Build their independence and their confidence. Encouraging them to do things for themselves shows you believe in them. If your child can put on their own socks, zip up their own coat, load dishes into the dishwasher… have them do it! Home responsibility lists are helpful for parents who are not sure what they can expect of their child at any given age. 
  • Less screens, more play. Encourage whole mind/whole body play, to keep your child learning with all their senses. Even quality screen content (of which there is lots!) can lead children to become passive about learning over time.  
  • Spend time outdoors with your child each day. Experts recommend at least one hour per day, but more is better. For more ideas, see the 1000 hour challenge.
  • Make suppertime a daily ritual for conversation and sharing. This helps build healthy eating habits, better family connections, and important social skills they’ll need in school.
  • Encourage your child to notice things around them (street signs, seasonal changes, letters on license plates, logos on restaurants, etc.) A game of I Spy can keep even long car rides fun. 
  • Expose your child to the arts (clay, music, poetry, painting….). Give them access to (rounded) scissors, glue and loose materials so they can invent and build… and actively build alongside them. You’ll show them what lifelong learning looks like.
  • Consult a kindergarten readiness checklist to learn which skills your child is capable of developing – but don’t let it stress you out. Many of the tasks are simple to work on, such as how to properly hold a pencil, identify their own name, or count to 10. Every little bit helps.   
  • Register your child in a preschool program or run your house like one. Centres like Brightling Childcare Academy are designed and equipped to promote learning and prepare children for school through a play-based curriculum. Preschool for even a few days each week can move your child along in kindergarten readiness.
  • Allow your child to feel and express all their feelings. While we want our kids to be happy all the time, this is the real world – and that is impossible. Learning to deal with disappointment and manage their emotions is an important stage in a child’s development, and is a key step to being ready for kindergarten. Support your child to help them through the emotions – and be steadfast. Don’t give in just to end a tantrum: as tough as it can be to watch, they have to learn there are limits. You can find more about this through the Circle of Security International
  • Understand that feeling secure in their relationship with you is the most important factor in determining your child’s future successThe Attachment Network of Manitoba has developed amazing resources for parents. 
  • Be honest and ask for support early. Our schools offer incredible access to experts and resources for children who need extra help – but your little one’s teachers may not recognize your child’s needs right away. If you feel your little learner may need support, or you are uncertain about some aspect of their development, reach out. At Brightling, we work with parents, teachers and specialists to help children achieve their potential – but it’s important that you reach out to your child’s school directly. Childcare centres are bound by privacy laws, and can’t discuss your child’s needs without you.

Nothing in my professional life brings me more joy than supporting families, teachers, ECEs or anyone who wants to talk about children and their education. Please feel free to reach out to me any time. You’ve got this!