Social skills for school readiness
Sometimes the most simple game can help your child learn to get along with others in order to make friends. It can teach them how to talk and listen, how to take turns and plan ahead, and how to start and end a task.
Show your child the items you will be using for tea time, then ask them to help you set the table. Sit down and say, “Would you like some tea?" Offer your child some pretend tea and some pretend food. Practice allowing your child to offer you tea as well.
During the tea party strike up fun conversations, such as “What would you like to be when you grow up?” or “Tell me your favorite color” or “What was your favorite thing you did this summer?” When the party is over ask your child to help clean up.
Practice this a few times, even incorporating different details like soft music or cutting flowers and putting them in a vase on the table.
Also think about letting your child have pretend tea parties with his/her dolls and stuffed animals. Once they have had some practice invite a friend or family member over for a tea party and let your child host the event. If you're confident in their skills you can even use real drinks and cookies.
Puppets or stuffed animals
Another easy game is to play school at home. Show your child the types of activities they might be doing at school, and then talk to them about the rules and what is expected. Practice different scenarios that might come up like what to do if they need to go to the bathroom or if they get hurt.
Use dolls, puppets and stuffed animals to act out situations in order to show your child how to handle certain feelings and emotions. For example, if the puppet is upset that someone took her toy she can say, “That makes me so mad. Can I please have my toy back?” Also showing the puppets feeling happy, excited, sad, lonely helps a child to learn that this range of emotions is normal.
Board games and card games
Board and card games can help your child learn to follow rules, interact with others, learn how to handle winning and losing. They also can help kids to plan ahead and teach them how to wait and take turns.
Read books to your child about starting school
Some great books to help prepare you child for school are Berentstain Bears Go to School by Stan and Jan Berenstain, First Day Jitters by Julie Dannenberg, Kindergartner by Amy Schwartz, and Look Out, Kindergarten Here I Come by Nancy Carlson.
Preparing for the transition to school
Take your child on multiple trips to the school. Walk around, visit the classroom, show your child the bathroom and the playground. Try to meet the teacher ahead of time if possible.
Visit local parks and playgrounds near your child’s school. It can give you the chance to meet other kids who will be attending your child’s school. Talk to other parents and see if they would be interested in play dates so the kids can get to know each other before the first day of school and have some familiar faces in their classroom when school starts.
Talk positively about your school experiences when you were a kid. Show excitement about what a big day this will be and how much fun there is to be had by going.
Make a celebration out of the first day of school. Make your child a special breakfast, something they love that is also healthy. Plan a fun activity for when the day is over and let your child help to plan it (e.g. going to the park, a special snack or dinner, a new book). Be sure that your child knows this event is to celebrate their first day of school.
Practice how you will say goodbye on the first day of school. Reassure them of the time you will pick them up. Don’t make the goodbye too long, and leave with a confident smile and wave (even if you really feel sad and nervous).
Bring something from home. Sometimes it helps kids to have a memento from home that they can bring to school (e.g. a family picture, a note, a scarf, a special necklace or bracelet that reminds them of their parent who is thinking of them and loves them). Make sure you let the teacher know about this object and how special it is.
Start changing your child’s sleep schedule a few weeks before school begins. Start putting your child to bed earlier and waking them up earlier (many parents start with 15 minute increments). Also, don’t forget to shift their lunch and snack times to ones that will match their school schedule.
Practice the morning routine. Let your child help pick out their outfits the night before school starts. Have your child help to make a visual schedule that can be posted on the wall in their room. This could be pictures from a magazine or drawings of kids waking up, brushing teeth, eating breakfast, getting dressed, brushing hair, putting on a backpack, and putting on a coat.
Have your child personalize a new backpack, lunchbox or school supplies. If they are using a paper bag for lunch let them decorate a few in advance with paint, or cut outs of their favorite characters or animals. That way they can easily find it if it is stored in a cubby hole or with other children’s lunches.
Pack extra clothing for possible accidents. Your child may have an accident (potty, food, artistic or otherwise), so it's a good idea to pack an extra pair of clothes in your child’s backpack and let them know it is there just in case they need it.
Give them verbal support. When you pick up your child tell them what a great job they did and how proud you are of them.