Before your child starts preschool or kindergarten, be sure they have learned these basics.
Working on the following four skills before starting preschool or kindergarten can make the transition into school more pleasant and fun for everyone involved.
Bathroom Skills 101
Going to the bathroom at school often takes the top spot on kids' list of anxieties, and for a good reason: Young children still don't have total control of their bladder. "At age 5, 15% of kids are still at risk of having daytime wetting accidents," says Chris Cooper, MD, at the University of Iowa. Your child may have bladder signals that come on suddenly (so they'll have to dash to the bathroom ASAP), or they may not recognize the early warning signs that he has to go. Plus, kids this age tend to get so absorbed in an activity that they'll wait until the last minute to pee.
Teachers will schedule bathroom breaks, but reassure your child that they can ask to go anytime. "By kindergarten, kids have the bladder capacity to last only three to five hours, so they should be going at least twice during the day," says Dr. Cooper. It's especially important to remind your child to go about an hour after lunch, since most accidents occur between 2 and 5 p.m. Explain that even if they do have an accident, the teacher will help -- and that they shouldn't worry, since it happens to lots of kids.
You can help make your child's bathroom trips easier by ensuring that they can undo their buttons and snaps. Even though your child may look adorable in overalls, they probably can't get them off very quickly. Tights are another big challenge for little girls, so try swapping them for leggings until they get the hang of quick pull-downs.
Friendship Fine Arts
Walking into a classroom full of new faces can make any kid quiver. To boost their bravery, give them a refresher course in making friends. Lesson one: Assure them that their classmates are just as nervous as they are. Talk about how you made friends at a new job or mommy group -- maybe you were worried at first, but everything turned out just fine.
Try role-playing to help your child feel comfortable approaching a potential friend. They might look for something they have in common with one of their classmates ("Hi, I'm Jayden. I really like your backpack -- it's my favorite color. What's your favorite color?") "Let them order their meal at a restaurant or give money to a cashier so they can practice talking to new people," says Lonna Corder, founding director of the Playgroup preschool in San Francisco.
Don't forget to cover the ways your child can be a good friend, such as sharing and taking turns. Praise them when they share toys or wait to use the swing at the park, and explain that kids will be happy when they do the same at school.
The idea of riding a bus can make any kid nervous, and it's easy to see why: your child might not have ever set foot in anything larger than an SUV or ridden a bus without a family member. Check in with the school to see whether it offers a practice bus ride before the first day so your child can see that it's not so scary.
If there's no test-run, take a walk with your child to their bus stop before school starts and go over the essential info they need to know. Tell them that you'll introduce them, to the driver, and that they'll make sure everyone on the bus stays safe. You might suggest that they sit near the driver -- they may feel more relaxed being close to an adult.
Talk about dismissal time too, since kids are often anxious about finding the right bus after school. The teacher will probably explain the procedure, but you can prep your child ahead of time.
Intro to Dining
Your child's fine motor skills are still developing, so opening plastic containers or sandwich bags can easily turn into a frustrating battle. You can avoid mealtime meltdowns by running through a few "practice" school lunches at home. You'll learn what they can and can't open and have time to rethink your packing technique.