Kindergartener’s start to a new school year
Summer’s out for school: Getting into routines, meeting new people…and yes, day 2 is real , you do have to come back! Coming back from summer break can be hard for all students, teachers and parents. But for children who have never been to school before or are starting a new school in a new country, there are extra challenges and emotions that they, their parents, and their new teachers and classmates have to face.
– by Dana Hill, Classroom Teacher, KG Yellow
A child’s day does not start at school; indeed it can even begin as they are fast asleep, dreaming! Forming a home routine is key to help the child prepare for their day and helps them make connections between home and school. Along with the standard routine of getting dressed, eating breakfast, brushing teeth and putting on their shoes, you can also have your children help to get ready for their day in other ways. Have them help with preparing and packing snack/lunch and ensure that they know what is in their box that day; opening the box to something that they weren’t expecting can be upsetting. If you know the food is something that your child enjoys, remind them – sometimes children try to tell their teacher that they don’t like something when in fact they eat it regularly, but just don’t fancy it that day. This doesn’t mean that your child should be dictating to you what they eat, but just that you talk about it, and they feel prepared for what is to come. Having some involvement in preparing for the day encourages their independence.
Day 2 is real
Year after year of teaching Early Years children, I have seen parents who are often amazed that their child didn’t cry, that they played well, ate all of their food and listened to the routine on their very first day. So, they then are confused the following day when their child gets upset at drop-off and does not want their parents to leave. This is a real struggle for children as they had so much fun the day before so there are conflicting feelings going on. It’s like a play date; you don’t want to do that every day, so when they realise that they need to come back and repeat this routine daily it can be upsetting and distressing for them. A few things that you can do as parents to help them manage this transition is to ask them about their day. Please talk about both positive and negative aspects of their day, ensuring to remind them what fun they had and that you are proud of them for going to school and trying new things with new people!
The first few weeks
There are other ways to prepare for school, both during the morning routine but also in the weeks leading up to school and the first weeks of the year. Ensure that your child can open their water bottle and lunchbox independently but are confident to ask for help if it is extra tough. Can they put on their shoes by themselves? If not, and this is something you have been doing for them to make things go faster, then why not try having your child put their shoes on during a time of day when you have more time, without the pressure of having to be somewhere – you will find that most of them can do it if they have the opportunity. The same goes for getting dressed in the morning; encourage your child to first practice with their bottoms and then slowly add pieces of clothing, so that pretty soon they can get dressed by themselves (maybe even choosing their outfit if you don’t mind taking Princess Sofia or Spiderman to school some days).
One important aspect of starting school is that children are capable of taking themselves to the bathroom. This doesn’t mean that teachers won’t support them by waiting outside or directing them on where they need to go, but children should be able to manage themselves independently in terms of recognising when they need to go, what they need to do and can clean themselves after they are finished. Of course, if a child has an accident teachers will always comfort them and help them if needed. However, if children can put on clean clothes by themselves this not only distracts them from what happened, but also gives them a sense of pride and independence.
When the school day is done
At the end of the day, your child will be exhausted and sometimes emotional (maybe you too which is absolutely ok) so it is important to talk about the day and have some set routines for the evening. This helps your child see that their day is still organised, but that at home they have the safe space to wind down and relax. Some children, especially if they haven’t been to school before or if they are around new people, will hold all of their emotions (and sometimes their pee) inside, which will all come out either at the door during pick-up or once they get into their safe home environment.
I did nothing today
This can be distressing for parents as you see your child upset and can sometimes think that they haven’t had a good day, but actually your child has just been focusing so much on regulating themselves that by the time that they get home they are exhausted and can no longer hold their emotions inside. If this happens, please don’t worry, talk to your child about their day and even if they say that they ‘did nothing’ comfort them and ask them about people they met or if they remember what their teacher’s name is. However, don’t let this take over your evening, just let it run its course and then move on with the rest of the evening routine; have them help with dinner, look at a book with you on the sofa or even ask them what comes next so that they also have some say in how the evening goes (this doesn’t mean that they are in charge, but just that they are involved). Speak with your child’s teacher the following day and make them aware that your child’s emotions all spilled out the day before at home. This way the teacher can already try to comfort and help the child open up at school to them or to their classmates.
Get plenty of sleep
It is also vital to ensure that your child goes to bed at a reasonable time, so that they get plenty of sleep. If we as adults don’t get enough sleep, we are grumpy and restless so just imagine what this can do to a growing child who is only just starting to understand and regulate their feelings and emotions. There is no set-in-stone ‘rule’ as to how many hours of sleep a child absolutely must have, but it is found that children aged 3-6 should ideally be getting between 10-12 hours each night. Please find some more information here.
We strongly promote home languages at ISUtrecht and this is one very important way that you as a family can support your child when starting a in a new place. You can ask them how their day went in your home language, assist their new teacher with phrases that can help them during the day and let your child see that their home language is as important in their school life. Your child’s prior knowledge of their home language is something that is key in learning a new language and if they can make connections between what they already know and what they are learning, it will make their school life so much more comforting, safe, and enjoyable.
Children have a very important cultural and linguistic identity we want to foster and celebrate with them, which we start during the first week by making ‘language profiles’ in all of PYP (see pictures above). This shows the children that their home or other known languages are celebrated and that they can use these languages to aid them during the day whilst they learn English and Dutch – as we know the best way to learn new a language is to connect and maintain all languages. Kindergarten have also gone a step further by learning the colour of our class in all of our home to make a classroom display so that we can start as we mean to go on: by creating a climate of multilingualism for the continuation of the community’s linguistic diversity.