Preparing a child for the first day of kindergarten is among the most bittersweet tasks of our parental careers. But wistfully tracking down the coolest Batman or Barbie backpack on the market is only a fraction of the job description. The following suggestions will help ensure your little slugger enjoys a successful start to his or her rookie school year.
Get into the Kindergarten Swing. A week or so before the start of school, begin easing your child into the school-year schedule. That way he'll be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed on his first day.
Play down your own mixed emotions. Rather than rambling on about how you can't believe your baby is growing up, emphasize how excited you are that she's going to kindergarten.
Let him steer the shopping cart. Help your child create a list of supplies he needs for school using drawings or cut-outs from back to school circulars. Take him along on your shopping trip and let him check off the items as you place them in the cart. The more involved your child feels in prepping to go to kindergarten, the more empowered and invested he'll feel when he gets there.
Send a security object. The promise of being able to bring a favorite blanket or picture of mom and dad -- albeit stashed safely out of sight in his backpack -- will be worth its weight in lunch money in building your rising kindergartener's courage.
Celebrate. Boost your child's excitement about school with a special celebratory dinner the night before he starts kindergarten. Use colorful school supplies to decorate the table for the occasion. (Just don't go overboard on the sugar!)
Talk about your first-day-of-school experiences. Psychologists believe that sharing family stories is one of the most effective ways for parents to emotionally strengthen their children. During your celebratory dinner, take turns sharing first day of kindergarten stories.
Read all about it. There's nothing like an uplifting story about another kid in the same boat to help build a rising kindergartener's confidence. A few worthy choices are Kindergarten Rocks by Katie Davis, The Night Before Kindergarten by Natasha Wing, and The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn.
Make sure she has a familiar face at school. Having at least one friend on the first day of kindergarten can make all the difference to a child; so call the school over the summer, ask for the names of a few of your child's future classmates, and arrange a play date or two.
Find Your Place in the Kindergarten Circle. Truth be told, even after our child is primed and ready for his elementary debut, our work is not done. To the contrary, it's just begun. Researchers have identified that the one factor constant in students who do well in school is parent involvement. So volunteer in your kindergartener's classroom; make sure he's geared and ready for school each day; and make a promise to yourself -- right now when your child is still cute and baby-faced -- to provide him with steady educational guidance, unwavering moral support and occasional kicks in the behind every single school day for the next thirteen years.