Mama in the City

A blog about raising my family in downtown Vancouver

This September Ben will be heading to kindergarten and I feel very fortunate to have access to some of the inside scoop on how to help him get ready for this milestone. My older sister Sarah is a kindergarten teacher at a public school just outside of Victoria, BC and I've been asking her about what we can do with Ben to help him get ready for full day K. I really appreciated her insight and thought she would be a perfect guest blogger to help other readers in the same boat. This will be a first in a series of post on kindergarten readiness. Even if your child is still on the wee side it's still fun to explore the milestones they have ahead of them in the future. Enjoy!

Teacher Sarah’s Top Ten List for Getting Ready for Kindergarten!

As a kindergarten teacher and Mum to two kids (one who recently completed kindergarten), I am familiar with the angst that some parents feel about sending their little one off to school for the very first time. Preparing ahead of time for new routines and new expectations makes the first few weeks of school so much easier (for both you and your child!). Before starting Kindergarten your child should be able to…

• Get dressed and undressed on their own. Practice zipping up jackets, buttoning up sweaters and putting on shoes before school starts. Velcro shoes area godsend for both your child and the teacher (can you imagine bending down to tie 22 student’s shoes several times a day? Ouch!).

• Use the bathroom independently (make sure your child knows to use only a little bit of toilet paper and can wipe themselves after as well!) and wash their hands on their own. Don’t be stressed if your child has the occasional “accident” as this is common for some 4 and 5 year olds, especially in the first couple months of school (keep a change of clothes at school or in your child’s backpack).

• Practice opening and closing containers for snack and lunch before starting school; on this note, I also highly recommend that you LABEL everything you send to school if you want it back! Teachers are happy to help children with their snack containers but learning to be more independent is so important in Kindergarten. I also suggest that you pack food that you know your child likes and will eat (now is not the time to try out new sandwich fillings and vegetables). I guarantee you will find less of it coming home uneaten if you do!

• Print and recognize his first name (ideally with an upper case and lower case combination). Using the correct pencil grip is important as it helps your child print neater and more efficiently. Here’s some more information on pencil grip:

• Listen, follow and complete two to three step directions. Practice these skills at home with something simple as cleaning up after supper: “please put your plate and cutlery on the counter when you are done eating. Then make sure to wipe up any crumbs.” There are also a lot of great activities to reinforce listening to directions skills. A great website to look at is

• Sing the ABC’s and recognize some letters and their corresponding sounds. is a fun interactive website that I recommend to parents. If your child is already writing letters, that is great! Just make sure they are printing from top to bottom and using the correct pencil grip. I use the Handwriting Without Tears program in my classroom to develop printing skills. It also has some helpful parent links:

• Count from 1-10 and recognize some numbers. With your child, practice counting forwards, backwards and from a given point. For some fun online math games check out:

• Enjoy reading books. Read to your child on a daily basis (at least 20 minutes a day) and offer them lots of chances to look at a variety of books. Children grow and develop at different rates so don’t fret if your child’s best pal is reading but your child is not! Before Kindergarten starts, it’s ideal if your child likes to listen to and look at books and is showing some signs of reading readiness. Here’s a great link for some more information on reading readiness:

• Enjoy spending time with other children in a variety of settings such as at play dates, at the playground, in sports programs or at camp. In Kindergarten, a good amount of time is spent on developing children’s social skills. If you are wondering how to help your child deal with some challenges and difficulties they might encounter with other children, I recommend the Bucket Fillers Program--

• Feel positive about starting school! If your child is showing signs of anxiety or has fears about starting school, there are lots of ways to help them transition more successfully into this new stage. Some things that have helped me as a parent are: role play with your child what the first day of kindergarten will look like, familiarize yourselves with the school playground and school yard, discuss who will be picking up and dropping off your child each day, and emphasize what fun your child will have in Kindergarten (and honestly, Kindergarten is a blast!). Also, once school begins, make sure to communicate with your child’s teacher and let them know if your child is feeling overly anxious. Check out this link for some more anxiety-reducing activities to do with your child before school starts:

Hope this information helps. There are lots of great books to read about starting school and to help calm those first day jitters -I will be writing about my favourite books in my next post!

Sincerely, Teacher Sarah

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