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You just enrolled your child in Kindergarten for the fall term. Time to worry about separation anxiety, self-esteem and confidence building. Don’t worry, you’ll get over it! Now, try to focus on your child.

Kindergarten is a big step for you and an even bigger step for her. It’s that transition from being mommy’s shadow to an independent, confident little person. It’s an opportunity for your child to pave her own path in an environment that encourages her to express her creativity. But, before you fill her lunch box and send her packing, some mental and physical preparation is necessary.

Basic Skills

Today's Kindergartners are more advanced than their predecessors, and learn a lot during that first year of elementary school. However, they are also expected to enter the Kindergarten year having already mastered some basic skills. These are often introduced in preschool, but can also be taught at home.

When a baby begins to talk, he is processing information and then repeating it. It’s important to talk to and read to your young child to familiarize him with language skills as early as possible. Introduce the alphabet, numbers one through ten, and personal information such as name, address and telephone number. Ask your toddler repeat them over and over, as rote memory plays a key role at this stage. At approximately age three, teach your child to write his first name, as well as his ABC’s. Getting a jump-start will ensure that your child will have mastered these skills by the time he enters Kindergarten.

Other skills, such as tying shoes, holding a pencil correctly, and computer literacy—though not required for entry into Kindergarten—are an added bonus. Typically, these skills are taught during the Kindergarten year.

Preschool curricula often include counting to 100, learning to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, understanding weather and the calendar, and letter and sound recognition. In addition, a thorough Kindergarten Readiness preschool program provides structured learning, establishes a routine and includes lessons in following directions—all essential for a successful Kindergarten experience. To ensure continuity, parents should reinforce these skills at home.

Mental and Emotional Preparation

There is usually a period of about 6 months from Kindergarten Registration to the first day of school. This is the perfect time to prepare your child for this important transition. Speak often about Kindergarten, including how exciting it will be to attend school like the “big” kids. Bring your child with you to Registration if possible, so they can size up the physical surroundings. A colorful, busy classroom with imaginative displays and bright bulletin boards can spark your child’s curiosity. This visit also is an opportunity for your child to meet the Kindergarten teachers and possibly the Principal.

Describe a typical Kindergarten day for your child (or ask a teacher to do so). Most children appreciate this type of preparation, as surprises can be disruptive. Praise your child’s future independence as she enters Kindergarten. Explain that she will ride the bus to school or if she is enrolled in a full day Kindergarten program, that she will eat her lunch in the cafeteria with the older students. Finally, provide encouraging words and let her know that you are proud that she is entering Kindergarten.

Practice Makes Perfect

One month before school starts, devise a bedtime routine. Young children typically need at least 10 hours of sleep to function properly at school. Determine a specific time for a bath, brushing teeth, and reading a story and stick with it, night after night. By the time school begins, your child will be able to follow this routine automatically.

Establishing a morning pattern is also a wise idea. A few weeks before the first day of school, let your child practice getting dressed within a specified time frame. To decrease stress and avoid the panic of the morning rush, choose and lay out his clothing the night before. That is also a good time to make lunches, fill backpacks and write notes to the teacher.

Combine these suggestions with good old-fashioned common sense and you can’t miss. Provide your child with the essential elements needed and he will be able to effortlessly meet today’s Kindergarten requirements.