Preparing your child for kindergarten during a pandemic

Preparing your child for kindergarten during a pandemic
Here is some advice on how to prepare your child’s arrival in kindergarten in the context of a pandemic.

May 22, 2020 | Due to the current pandemic, the transition activities for children who will start kindergarten this year will not be the same as usual. Parents can still take advantage of summertime to prepare their wee ones for their arrival in a school environment.

Usually, in May or June, schools organize a visit of their kindergarten classes for children and their parents. This is an opportunity for the future schoolchildren to familiarize themselves with their classroom and teachers and for the parents to learn more about the school. Obviously, this visit will not take place as usual, this year, but school personnel is working on various scenarios to move back or replace that visit while still preparing the new kindergarteners for the big day. Nothing has been decided yet and parents will be notified by their school in due time.

This situation can be worrisome for parents, “but in the meantime, they can use various daily activities to prepare their child for kindergarten,” says Ann-Marie Picard, executive director of the Centre régional pour la valorisation de l’éducation, a Lanaudière organization devoted to school perseverance.

Hooray for Autonomy!

Parents should not put pressure on themselves to teach their children to learn things they will learn in school like writing their name or recognizing letters and numbers. “The most important thing you can teach your little ones is to become autonomous,” says psychoeducator Solène Bourque. She advises parents to get their child used to going to the bathroom on their own, to get dressed with as little help as possible, to put on their shoes and to put away their toys.

“Another good idea is to have your child get used to manage a lunchbox,” adds Maryse Rondeau, the president of the Association d’éducation préscolaire du Québec. Summer is the best season for a picnic in the yard or at the park which will teach children to deal with a packed lunch.

Obviously, the level of self-sufficiency of a 4 or 5 year-old is limited, so it is very important that they learn to make clear and polite demands when they need help.

The Challenge of Social Abilities

The pandemic has kept children apart for a few months now, which has reduced the opportunities to learn how to maintain good relationships with others. The good news is, the government has authorized exterior gatherings of 10 people or less.

It is therefore possible for children to play in a yard or an alley as long as they stay two metres apart. Parents should take advantage of this to let their children play with others. Developing social abilities like learning to wait one’s turn, collaborating and sharing facilitate life in a school environment.

Those abilities can also be easily developed in the context of home life. “You could, for example, develop a habit of talking about your favourite moment of the day, says Solène Bourque. This helps children speak in front of others and express their ideas.” Creating moments to chit-chat with your child can also teach them to tolerate delays. “It is a good opportunity to teach them to respect everyone’s turn to speak and wait for theirs,” Maryse Rondeau adds. Playing board games as a family is another good way to learn how to wait for one’s turn.

Ann-Marie Picard also suggests involving your child in certain chores to teach them to collaborate. You can ask them to help fold laundry, set the table or water the garden.

Dealing With Novelty

For a child, going to kindergarten means dealing with a lot of new things: a new environment, new people—adults and children—, new rules and a new schedule. That is a lot of unknowns, admits Solène Bourque, and this can become stressful for some children. “That is compounded by the fact that this year, some children might arrive in school without ever having seen their classroom or teacher,” she says.

To reduce the stress of the unknown, the psychoeducator’s suggestion to parents is to take their child to see their school and its schoolyard a few times throughout the summer. It is also a great opportunity to talk about school with them and answer their questions. Maryse Rondeau adds that some school teams are preparing videos or print documents with photos to introduce children to their classroom, their teacher and their school.

Even parents have to deal with a lot of new things, especially since no one knows what back-to-school during a pandemic will look like. “It is normal to be worried, says Ann-Marie Picard, but you need to talk about your worries with other adults and not in front of your children to avoid communicating your stress to them. Everything a child hears about school should be positive. You can tell them how proud you are to see them become a big kid so that they feel like going to school is a very positive thing in your eyes.”

Getting Ready for Rules

Parents need to keep reminding their children about sanitary guidelines: cough in your elbow, wash your hands frequently, stay two metres away from others and not hugging your friends. It is also recommended to familiarize them with face masks by letting them play with one and getting them used to see their parents wearing one, when they leave to run errands, for example.

But Solène Bourque believes parents should not go too far in that direction. Teachers will clearly explain and repeat the school’s rules to their pupils during the first days of classes. They are getting ready to make this fun using songs about washing your hands and dances and games that teach them how to stay two metres apart.

The psychoeducator wants to reassure parents that even without a pandemic, entering kindergarten is a stressful event. “It is good to bear in mind, however, that the wee ones have a good capacity to adapt, greater than that of adults. They are less rigid about change and they can often adapt to a new environment in a matter of a few weeks. I am already hearing good feedback from schools that have reopened elsewhere in the province.”

Maryse Rondeau adds that preschool environments are working hard to prepare a warm welcome for the new kindergarteners. “They are going to capitalize on play to make the transition fun despite the current restrictions.” She believes the more parents stay calm when it comes to the complications created by the pandemic, the more their child will adapt quickly.

 

Not Sending Your Child to Kindergarten in September?
Some parents who are worried about COVID-19 or fear that their child will experience an unpleasant first experience in school might be considering not sending their child to kindergarten. Specialists advise that even though kindergarten is not mandatory, it is a crucial step in a child’s school career. They learn to belong to a group and follow instructions, not to mention that they get prepared for first grade through playful activities. “I would trust the teachers to make that experience as pleasant as possible given the context,” says Solène Bourque. Parents also play a crucial role in helping their child like going to school. To succeed and like going to school, children need to feel that their parents trust school and teachers.

 

To learn more, read

 

RESOURCES
Your Child Is Starting Kindergarten. Ministère de l’Éducation et de l’Enseignement supérieur du Québec.
Petit Covid devenu gigantesque. A collaboration between Nathalie Parent, psychologist, and Fabrice Bélanger, author and illustrator.
Petit Loup retourne à l’école (malgré le vilain virus). Solène Bourque (story) and Nadia Berghella (illustrations), Éditions Midi trente.
Petit Loup entre à l’école. Solène Bourque, Éditions Midi trente, 2012, 96 p.

 

Julie Leduc — Naître et grandir

Naitre et grandir.com

 

Photos : GettyImages/SDI Productions et RgStudio