There are many transitions made throughout our lifetime. For a teacher of young children, one of the biggest transitions occurs when a child moves from preschool to kindergarten. This journey can be so exciting but it can also evoke feelings of anxiety for children and parents alike.
As the school year is ending In many preschool classrooms, the preparation is beginning for the transition to kindergarten. Teachers read numerous books at circle time about this exciting new adventure. There are daily discussions about what comes next. Every effort is made for the children to be “ready” for school.
I didn’t spend time at the end of the year preparing my students for “big kid school”. Instead I focused on being present for each moment and milestone. Our days were spent filling their social emotional toolkit with strategies like navigating friendships, managing big feelings and using social filters. These are important life skills and not just skills for transition.
As an early childhood educator I believe when children are given what they need at each age and stage they will be ready for the future. It saddens me when early years education is seen as preparation for “real” school. The tools and strategies that our youngest children learn while they are with us benefit them today and in the future.
As I mentioned in a previous blog post I was proactive in providing daily opportunities for independence. Ensuring that my students could care for their belongings, zip their own coats and open their lunch containers was important in the present moment and in the future. Their independence toolkits were well stocked for the years ahead!
I knew in my heart that when my students left my classroom they would have the social emotional, independence and critical thinking skills needed throughout their life. I also came to the realization that I wasn’t doing the best job being mindful of the strategies that parents would need in their toolkit. Life changes pretty drastically when you move from your early years safe space to a primary school setting. Looking back I would have made it a priority to help parents build their parenting toolkit throughout the school year.
There are so many things that I would add to a parent’s toolkit:
I posted daily open-ended questions for parents to discuss with their children each evening. While this was useful in their current classroom setting I needed to add the skill of asking intentional open-ended questions to their parenting toolkit.
I often reminded parents of field trips and days school was closed. Instead I could have shared with them a great tool that I use with my own daughter. At the beginning of each school year I sit down with the school calendar and plug in each day the school is closed or days school ends early. As soon as I am informed of a field trip or school events I immediately add them to my calendar. I send a calendar invite to my husband so all the information can also be added to his calendar. There are so many amazing family calendar apps that make managing the day-to-day so much easier for busy families!
Another important addition to any parenting toolkit are routines and schedules. Most early years programs are pretty flexible with dropoff and pick up times. We understand when a favorite pair of leggings goes missing and how tough it is to get multiple children out of the house. This flexibility typically does not extend into the primary school years. Do you know what you learn very quickly when your child rides the bus to school? You learn that the bus driver waits for no one. Prep everything you can the night before, enable your kiddos to be responsible for morning chores and set multiple alarms on your phone if needed.
Your child’s backpack will be filled with miscellaneous and important items at the end of each week. Work with your child to create a system for emptying their backpack. Sorting things into piles is helpful for you and it teaches your child independence. There is nothing like finding an old sandwich stuck at the bottom of a backpack on a Monday morning!
Being proactive versus reactive when faced with transitions is the key to success. Instead of rushing to prepare for a new journey spend time in the present. Think about what your child needs in the moment as these tools will carry them throughout any journey they take in the future.
We would love to hear from you. In the comments share: What things would you add to a child’s toolkit? What strategies do parents need to add to their toolkit?