A world to discover

A world to discover
Whether your child has attended daycare or not, starting kindergarten is an enormous change for her. She needs to get used to many new things. How can you prepare her for this experience?

Whether your child has attended daycare or not, starting kindergarten is an enormous change for her. She needs to get used to many new things. How can you prepare her for this experience?

When your child starts kindergarten, she has to adjust to a lot of new situations. For example, she needs to find her way around a large school, make new friends, get used to her teacher and figure out her lunch on her own. “But the hardest thing,” according to Maryse Courville, kindergarten teacher at École Saint-Eugène in Salaberry-de-Valleyfield, “is getting used to following the class rules within a group of 20 students. Even if some children have been in groups of 10 at daycare, the rules are stricter in kindergarten. Waiting times are also longer as there are more students. The children need to get used to waiting their turn to speak or be helped. I have to teach them to distinguish between what is urgent and what can wait.”

In kindergarten, children must face several challenges: learning to wait their turn, following group rules and becoming more independent.

Respecting others, sharing toys, taking their seat without pushing and asking for things nicely are other skills that preschoolers have to develop. “Just like learning class routines and understanding how a typical day unfolds,” adds the teacher. “At the beginning of the year, some children think it’s already time for lunch when it’s snack time.”

A typical day in kindergarten
Your child may find it reassuring to know how a typical day unfolds in kindergarten. If your child will attend the school daycare, it’s up to you to take her there in the mornings. Fifteen minutes before classes begin, the children in daycare usually go outside in the schoolyard to play with the other students arriving on foot or by bus. When the bell rings, all the students enter the school and head for their classrooms. They place their belongings in their lockers and put their lunch boxes in the assigned location. The teacher then takes attendance.
The day continues with various activities lasting 20 to 30 minutes each and usually unfolds as follows:
  • short discussion time
  • calendar and weather time (one or several students indicate the day of the week and today’s weather on a board)
  • group activity (e.g. rhyming game, playing with sounds found in words)
  • workshop (e.g. cutting, gluing, painting, playing with playdough, role-play, mathematical games)
  • recess
  • snack
  • story time
  • play time (e.g. an activity to get students moving)
  • lunch
  • relaxation
  • group activity (e.g. song, dance, miming game)
  • free play or workshops
  • departure for home or daycare

How to help your child

Here are a few tips to prepare your child for a positive first experience at school a few weeks before the school year begins.

Reassure your child.

“Take your child to the schoolyard to play,” says Anne-Marie Picard, director of the Comité régional pour la valorisation de l’éducation (Regional committee for the promotion of education). “That way he’ll get to know the location. The idea is to turn the unknown into something more familiar.” You can also describe to him what a typical day at kindergarten is like (see above table). “To reassure him, it’s important to tell him what time you’ll pick him up after school,” adds Maryse Courville. “And if he comes home by bus, tell him that there will always be someone there to meet him at his stop.”

Let your child play with other children.

Take your child to the park to socialize. “This will prepare him for group life,” says Maryse Courville. “He’ll get used to sharing and waiting his turn. He may even meet other children who’ll be in his class.” You can also go to the municipal pool or library, or participate in neighbourhood get-togethers. “By playing with other children, your preschooler will learn to take his place, respect others and settle small conflicts,” notes Anne-Marie Picard.

Set up a routine with rules to follow.

“Setting routines for your child, for example at bedtime, gets him used to following rules and instructions,” says Anne-Marie Picard. “Knowing what to expect also calms and reassures him.” A child who is used to a routine is more confident and collaborates better when the time comes to complete a task at school.

Encourage your child’s independence.

It’s a good idea to get your child used to doing things on his own, like getting dressed or going to the toilet, even if it takes a little longer. You’ll also benefit from giving him small responsibilities, like hanging up his coat and putting his toys away.

Teaching your child how to do certain things rather than doing them for him is also good. “Showing him how to close and open a zipper may take some time,” notes Maryse Courville. “Sometimes it can take up to 10 tries before he gets it. But you should encourage your child to practice until he can do it and most importantly, congratulate him on his effort.”

These little acts can help your child feel more at ease in kindergarten. If he can do several things on his own, he won’t always be waiting for his teacher’s help. He’ll be more confident and proud of himself. Plus, if he’s used to sharing and waiting his turn, he’ll have fewer frustrating moments. He’ll also be more open to learning new things if he’s not stressed.

Children adjust to kindergarten at their own speed, depending on their personality. “Some are comfortable after a few days, whereas for others it takes a few weeks,” says Maryse Courville. “But generally speaking they all end up adapting after two months.” You can tell if your child is happy at school if he wants to go and if he talks to you about his friends, his teacher and what he does in class.

Naître et grandir

Source : Naître et grandir magazine, July-August 2016
Research and copywriting : Nathalie Côté and Julie Leduc
Scientific Review : Maryse Rondeau, Kindergarten Teacher and Chair of the Association d’éducation préscolaire du Québec Board of Directors

Photo: Nicolas St-Germain