Here are some suggestions you can offer parents to help them recognize their child's growth and development, as well as help them prepare for the transition to a new classroom or program:
CREATE INDEPENDENT SPACE. Create space at home where your child can work independently. Collect a variety of materials to inspire your child as he becomes more capable of making representations of things. Good things to have are ballpoint pens, pencils, markers, notepads, and found objects, such as bottle caps, stones, and paper.
FOSTER ACCOUNTABILITY. Give children time and space for personal responsibility. This might include letting them pick out their own clothes and dress themselves, or pack their own lunch from food options you provide.
ENCOURAGE HELPING ROLES. Even the youngest family members can contribute to the group. Let children help choose the dinner menu and prepare the table. You can share the responsibility of keeping house by creating a "shine time" where the whole family makes the house sparkle.
SHOWCASE ARTWORK. Use an empty wall or clothesline to display children's art over time. Begin at one end and add pieces as the year progresses.
MAKE A MEMORY BOOK. Create a scrapbook or memory box with photos, drawings, and your child's favorite memories. Ask your child questions about how he sees himself now, and what he thinks he will be like in the future (after kindergarten or first grade). Periodically include samples of your child's drawings and non-conventional print and writing samples.
VISIT THE NEW SCHOOL If your child will be leaving the program he is in now, visit your child's new school to play on the playground or walk through the halls. Helping your child become comfortable with his new space will ease the transition.
TELL TRANSITION STORIES. Tell stories about your own childhood experiences in school, or read books to your child about characters transitioning to kindergarten or first grade. (see resource box on page 32 for suggestions.)
TALK ABOUT KEEPING IN TOUCH. Assure your child that a new school will be a chance to make new friends, but that he will also have opportunities to keep in touch with old friends. You can make playdates, send letters, and visit favorite former teachers.
INTERVIEW OLDER CHILDREN. Make time to get together with friends or neighbors who have children slightly older than your child, so they can talk about what kindergarten or first grade is like, and what happens there.
SHARE FAMILY RULES. Involve your child in the making of family rules. Setting clear limits for children is how they learn to manage moments when they have no control, or simply don't know what is safe.
CREATE A CALENDAR. Count down the days until the first day of school using a traditional calendar. Or create a system for marking time that best suits your child. Fill a jar with a stone for each day until the transition, then ask your child to remove one a day to mark the passing of time. Or, do the opposite to measure the days until school ends (or until the summer program begins).
The Home-School Connection