How to Prepare Students for Kindergarten in the Aftermath of COVID-19

Preparing preschoolers for kindergarten when schools re-open in Fall 2020 presents some special challenges. Veteran teacher Heather provides some strategies for getting them ready to thrive in the "new normal."

preparing students for kindergarten post-pandemic

While quarantined for nearly two months, with no end in sight for some states, it’s hard to say what will happen this fall in terms of your kiddos going back to school in an actual building that's not your living room. Being optimistic, let’s assume school buildings open. While this leaves some kids and parents jumping for joy, it can cause a tremendous amount of stress on parents who have little ones who are about to embark on their educational journey. If you have a preschooler-about-to-be-kindergartener in your life and school starts on time, there are some obstacles your little learner could face after being quarantined with you for months. Here are some things to think about and ways to help them cope when they are away from you and in a new space with a new teacher!

Preschool Reboot

As you're undoubtedly aware, preschool was cut short for most. If your child's private school or daycare was working on a letter of the alphabet each week, and you haven’t continued where they left off, it’s time to start. While many children can already recognize their letters before kindergarten, some cannot. Consider writing each letter on a piece of paper and play the “Squish” game. Spread out 5 letters at a time on the floor. Call out a letter and have our child step on it. This will show you immediately which letters they know and which ones they need to work on.

If your child is a letter master, have them practice writing them with a proper pencil grip. Use plain paper first, and once they show mastery, teach them how to write letters on three lines, neatly with a finger space in between.

You can play popular nursery school music on your phone while they work, and you can download and print some of the numerous early learning and pre-K worksheets on TeacherVision to give your preschooler a smart start to their special year!

Sharing Means Caring

Your pre-kindergartner may need some practice with sharing. Think about it - they were at home for months on end, playing with their own toys, playing by themselves, with you, or their siblings; things probably became pretty relaxed with sharing. Part of the kindergarten day involves centers and free play, which requires sharing materials and toys.

If you haven’t already, start to request items from your child while they are playing. This role-play may throw them off and it could be interesting to see how they respond to your request. Take items out of their hand and walk them through the coping process they should use if this happens to them at school. Go out of your own way to be extra sharing with your child, passing them a piece of your cookie, or trading toys with them during a play session. These simple, social interactions will help your child in a big way!

Easing Separation Anxiety

Your child will probably have a difficult time separating from you at first, when they go off to kindergarten. After being with you day and night for months on end, your child is going to miss you. Some children won’t blink an eye and will be ready to run into the classroom, but others who are timid and shy to begin with will really have some difficulty. You can start preparing them for this transition now.

Even if you’re unsure if school will open in the fall or not, you can tell your child that if and when it does, they are going to go inside a new classroom. Make it a point to take a weekly drive to your child’s school, talking about what it’s like to ride the bus along the way. Point out landmarks that may bring them comfort on their journey, which will also give them a sense of where they are and how close they are to school or home.

Once you arrive at the school, play up how cool and exciting it is, and how your child is becoming so big and brave.These words of affirmation subtly plants a seed! Stroll around the property, check out the recess area, and consider having a snack or picnic lunch on site. Allow them to get excited and become comfortable with their new surroundings. Gently explain that they will be coming here without you and they are going to do great, in order to build up their confidence. While this may not be met with enthusiasm at first, your child will start to get excited about their weekly visit to school.

Another thing you can do to ease separation anxiety is to physically start separating from your child. This can be hard with social quarantine restrictions, but it needs to be done. It can be something simple, like asking your child to play alone in their room while you work outside in the yard, or do laundry downstairs for a bit.

It can be dropping your child off at a relative’s house while you run to the grocery store or work from home for several hours. While it’s nice and rare to be with your child 24/7; it’s not overly conducive for promoting their independence and emotional well-being.

Before bedtime each night, it is wise to read a story about kindergarten, managing feelings, or a story from a character education line that deals with emotions and relationships with others. It allows you both time to talk to one another and reassure your child that everything is going to be OK.

Zoom, Zoom, Zoom

When possible, schedule virtual playdates for your kindergartener. They are seriously missing their little friends. Virtual playdates are about the only way for them to connect with one another. Zoom, a free communication platform; is easy to set up and maneuver. You can schedule weekly playdates ahead of time and bring in many friends for added fun. When playing on an online platform, your child’s speech, communication, and interpersonal skills will improve. They will need to listen, wait, ask questions, and respond appropriately, all of which are important skills for a kindergarten learning environment.

There’s no right or wrong way to parent in these new and unprecedented times. While it’s disheartening for many with children, it is time to start doing something to get them ready for normalcy once again. If your child is heading to kindergarten in the upcoming year, consider these tips and strategies to help ensure they are ready for this huge transition and feel confident about it as well!

Heather Aulisio is a third grade teacher in Pennsylvania. She has been a teacher for nearly 15 years and holds multiple degrees and certifications. A freelancer for The Mailbox and other education-related clients and publications, she enjoys writing in order to help and entertain fellow teachers. She currently resides with her husband, Bryan; son, Matthew; and two pugs, Lily and Leo.

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