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Help your child get ready for kindergarten — here's how

New Westminster school district offers up a little advice and a lot of reassurance.
Child starting school parent
Anxious about your child setting off for kindergarten in September? New Westminster school district has some advice and reassurance for parents.

Summertime, and the livin' is easy — unless you're the parent of a soon-to-be-kindergartener, in which case it may be fraught with anxiety.

If you have a child starting school in New Westminster just a few weeks from now, School District 40 has a few tips to help smooth the way.

First and foremost: Yes, your child is ready for kindergarten. Every child who is registered and who is the right age — that is, turning five in the calendar year 2022 — is ready for school, regardless of how they may compare developmentally to other kids.

"Think of your child like a flower in a garden. Each child will grow at different times," advises Tanis Anderson, the district's vice-principal for early learning, in a post on the school district website. "Don’t compare your flower to the other flowers; rather, celebrate the unique qualities your child has and know that’s what will help them blossom when the time is right for them.”

That said, though, there are a few things parents can do to help make the move into kindergarten go more smoothly. 

If you haven't already considered these ideas, here are a few tips for the next few weeks, courtesy of SD40:

Work on basic skills for your child's daily needs.

  • Can your child handle all their toileting needs and zip up their clothing after going to the bathroom? If not, start practising with them now.
  • Have some fun putting lunches in containers that will be used for school in the fall. See if your child is able to open and close containers and put things back in their lunch kits — whether that’s for a picnic in the park or some trial runs at your kitchen table.
  • Knowing how to do up their coats and do up their shoes is great, but don’t worry if they can’t do that when they first start kindergarten. Teachers and school staff will be there to help.

Keep building a love for words and communication.

  • Read books with your child. Libraries and thrift stores (not to mention those neighbourhood little free libraries) are great ways to add to your book collection. And, when your child wants you to read the same book over and over again, do so. Children gain new meaning each time they hear it.
  • Support your child’s growing vocabulary by teaching them feeling words. It is really helpful when children are able to articulate how they are feeling and why.  Books like The Color Monster, by Anna Llenas, and The Feelings Book, by Todd Parr, are picture books that can build emotional vocabulary.
  • Your child does not need to arrive in school knowing their alphabet or how to read — that will be something they work on throughout the year. But it can help kids find their things in a classroom if they can recognize their first name. Try focusing on identifying the first and last letters, if this is something new for them.

Help children be comfortable and well-rested.

  • Take a trip to play on the school playground or field to help your little ones build a little familiarity with the space. While you’re there, drop in little comments about the friends they’ll soon make and get to play with too.
  • Routines are important. Help ensure your child gets plenty of rest. A few weeks before school begins (which would be right about now), have your child go to bed a bit earlier. If you’re like many of us who have let those rules slide over the summer, the earlier bedtime and wake-up time can really help make the transition all that much easier on them (and you). As a guideline, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada, children between the ages of five and 13 should get between nine and 11 hours of sleep each night.

Most of all, it's the approach that you and other role models in their life take that will likely make the biggest difference.

“The most important thing you can do as a caregiver is to speak about school in a positive way, so as to not create stress and anxiety around this time of transition," Anderson said. "Kids take their cues from those around them. If caregivers are stressed, children will learn to be too. And while it might be totally appropriate to acknowledge the stress or worry kids have around 'the unknown' and the change represented in this new beginning, as that is a very natural reaction to have, try to avoid mirroring or amplifying that emotional reaction. Instead, if you use your words and actions to model a sense of excitement, assurance and opportunity, they’ll pick up on that.”

More questions about New Westminster schools? Check out the School District 40 website.

Got any other tips for the parents and caregivers of new kindergarteners? Send us an email so we can share them, too!

Follow Julie MacLellan on Twitter @juliemaclellan.
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