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Keep Preschoolers Cool about School

by Jane Lake

The first day of school is a momentous occasion for parent and child. Excitement, tinged with uncertainty, fills the weeks before September. Anxious mothers coax awkward five-year-old fingers to tie shoelaces (or give up and buy sneakers with Velcro), while proud fathers urge their children to write their own names or recite the alphabet.

It used to be that children entering the school system were expected to have mastered certain skills before arriving, but times have changed, according to Marilyn Philbrick, a primary education co-coordinator for a large, progressive school board. "We recognize that children develop at different rates, and there are no skills as such that we insist a child learn before entering kindergarten. What we like to see is a child who has confidence and a positive attitude."

Still, starting school marks a child's first step into the world outside the family. There are changes and challenges to face. It's a rare parent or child who can "let go" without some pain. To ease the transition from home or nursery school to kindergarten, practice these strategies during summer:

  • Talk about school. First-day jitters are common, but being frightened may be more manageable if you encourage your child to express his or her feelings.
  • Read about school or help your child to "play school" with you or with friends.
  • Reinforce basic safety rules. Your child should be able to say his or her name and address clearly. Try helping your child memorize your home phone number, too; it may be easier if you sing it together to the tune of Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.
  • Encourage friendships with neighborhood children who are also starting kindergarten. Knowing even one child who will be sharing that first day can make a big difference.
  • Tell your child to choose something from home to take to school. A favorite small toy or family photo can help ease homesickness.
  • Take advantage of introductory days when you and your child can meet the teacher and have an advance look at the kindergarten classroom.
  • Maintain a cheerful attitude towards school; chances are your child will then feel cheerful about it, too.

A kindergarten program should provide a warm, caring and fun-loving environment sensitive to individual differences, where each child has an opportunity to advance at his or her own rate. As children progress, they learn new things and meet new people. Your encouragement can help them feel good about themselves and their accomplishments; in years to come, this new-found independence will bring its own rewards, not only in school, but in the rest of the big wide world, as well.

Copyright© 2004 Jane Lake All Rights Reserved

Jane Lake is the editor of All Free Crafts, a top-ranking craft site that offers free craft patterns and projects to make easy homemade gifts. Visit her site at or check the free printables at

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