This time last year I was feeling what you probably feel now … excited that my firstborn was starting Kindy but also grieving. Grieving because we were sending her off to somewhere unfamiliar, where she knew almost no one and needed to adjust to a new routine, and yes, five full days in a classroom. Grieving because our days filled with adventure were no longer unlimited. And grieving because my baby wasn’t a baby any more … I mean seriously, how did this happen so quickly?
I worried about all the things us mums worry about: Is she going to be hungry? Will she remember to drink enough water? What if other kids are not kind to her? What if she misses me? What if …?
As the first day of Kindy approached, I had an awful lump in my throat …. and when the big day arrived, I’ll admit I shed a few tears when I said goodbye to her and left her in the classroom.
Fear not, though! It all has a way of working out. Since starting school, our firstborn has blossomed. She has truly loved every single day of school. Each afternoon last year, she would run to me with a big smile on her face and talking so fast she’d trip over her words as she tried to tell me everything that happened at school that day. Her confidence and resilience have really improved. She was never hungry or thirsty, the other children were kind, and as much as I would like to believe the contrary, I think she was having way too much fun to miss me.
Teachers are wonderful, but there is something extra special about Kindy teachers. They not only hold our kids’ hands during the transitional year into school, they also hold our hands and guide us through the journey. I remember also worrying about whether I would be able to stay on top of all the detail, but I soon learned there is plenty of notice about every event and reminders too. Teachers know that we all have busy lives and are so patient and non-judgemental if we do end up forgetting something. They always have a backup plan!
There is no pressure but if you wish, there are numerous opportunities to get involved in your child’s class, from doing weekly reading sessions with the whole class to accompanying the class on various excursions. I so loved the days I helped out with reading and joined my daughter’s class on outings. You can even be a class parent.
For those mums whose kids are making this huge step, I’ve put together some tips about what helped us as a family to have a smooth first year.
• Schoolbag: Pack the bag each night before school. It makes it so much easier not to have to look for the home reader or library book during the morning rush.
• Routine: Have a clear routine each morning. A visual schedule using photos or illustrations showing each of the steps – breakfast, brushing teeth, getting dressed, brushing hair, making beds, etc. – can work very well. Once your child has completed all their ‘getting ready’ tasks they can play.
• Alarm: I set an alarm on my phone every day for 7.30 am to notify me of any activities on that day (music class, library, sports day and so on), so I’d remember what to pack. After a few weeks I found I needed the reminders less and less.
• More alarms: I found it useful to have an alarm set about ten minutes before we needed to leave the house. This gave enough warning for any last-minute toilet trips or important items that had been missed.
• Accept that there will be some mornings when things won’t go as smoothly as you’d like (and I can promise you this!)
• Your child will bring some notes home, actually a lot of notes … The best way to keep on top of them, I found, is to action them immediately.
• Read with your child every day. Keep it short and make it fun. If your child gets frustrated or tired, leave it and come back to it later.
• DO NOT worry about academic achievements in Kindy. Let your child enjoy learning.
• Afterschool activities: Avoid booking afterschool activities for at least the first term. Most kids are pretty tired from being at school five days a week. Let your child adjust to this change and then introduce some activities when they seem ready.
• Ask your child open-ended questions about their day, such as:
What was the best part of today?
Who did you play with?
Tell me what made you laugh today.
We found that talking about our day at dinnertime encouraged the kids to share their experiences, and now even our three year old likes to starts dinner with: ‘Let’s talk about our day.’
• Don’t forget to have fun! Organise a night out with other parents from your child’s class, and arrange some playdates with a range of children. Enjoy this year – it will fly by and before you know it, you’ll have a first-grader!