By Ayesha AlJanahi (@_AyeshaAlJanahi)
Starting kindergarten is a huge milestone for your child and for you. Many parents worry about whether their child is ready to learn all the new skills and adapt to a new environment. Being separated from parents, playing with a new group of children, a new classroom environment, sharing and getting along with others is challenging for many children. However, there are some ways to prepare your child before they enter kindergarten. There is the academic approach of focusing on learning the different colors, numbers, and the alphabet. However, a more holistic approach can be taken on social and emotional development.
Kindergarten readiness is an important factor in future school success. Research has shown that when a child enters kindergarten with a solid foundation and the basic constructs of social, emotional, cognitive, and physical skills, they are then prepared to face the new challenges and have a much higher chance of success compared to a child who is not “kindergarten ready”.
So how can we prepare our children for kindergarten?
Some parents choose to send their children to nurseries, enrichment activities, or playgroups as early as 14 months. There are pros and cons to each type of arrangement but most important of all is to select one that works for both you and your child. There are also many factors that play a part in your choice.
In my case, being my child’s first teacher, I focused on enrichment activities to strengthen my child’s communication and social skills. So instead of drilling my child in his ABCs and 123s, I focused more on his ability to cooperate, mingle, talk and play with other children. So my journey started with one of the places that require families to be with their young children to achieve their main goal of having fun and having a safe and clean environment for children to learn, play and grow. Creating a special bond with my child by being available in his classes allowed him to socialize with the other kids and enjoy his activities. Then to deepen my understanding of his developmental potential, I came up with an assessment that is checked after every attended class and revised every month.
Some parents choose to send their children to nursery before kindergarten. While some people view nurseries merely as a baby-sitting service that allows parents to work, in reality, high quality nurseries are much more than that. Some nurseries in the United Arab Emirates are seen as an early education environment and one that has important outcomes for children. High quality nurseries help children thrive and develop to their potential both cognitively and socially. If you need help selecting a high quality nursery for your child, consider this checklist to help you investigate the core factors of high quality early childhood centers: http://www.aaece.org/BLOG?mode=PostView&bmi=704011
Whether you choose to send your child to a high quality nursery or choose to enroll them in enrichment classes during the week, most children will face separation anxiety as they go through this new transition phase. Going from home to the classroom, moving from one classroom to another, moving from activity to another, and then from classroom to home; all challenging transitions that your child has to adapt to.
Each child will have a unique way of dealing with separation anxiety but there are a few tips that we can all follow to help ease the process.
Create a pleasant and consistent goodbye ritual. If you can, spend a few minutes every morning playing an activity together in class. Remember that at this sensitive period, your child will be attuned to your emotions. If you stay calm and relaxed, they will be more likely to trust the teacher. When it is time to leave, tell your child you will be back soon, do not hesitate, and always say goodbye (no sneaking away!)
Outside of the classroom, talk about the experiences they had during the day. Encourage your child to share their feelings about how they are adjusting in class.
Teary goodbyes are a normal part of your child’s development. This transitioning period is a process and depending on their temperament, it can last anywhere from 1 to 6 weeks. Although it is a challenging phase for both parents and children, the benefit is that not only does your child build their confidence and independence, but they also establish a stronger and more trusting relationship with you.
Written by Ayesha Al Janahi and supported by Arabian Child organization. Visit www.arabianchild.org for more information about early childhood education in the United Arab Emirates.
Sail eMagazine’s 19th Issue – October 2011
Here We Start – Art of Living 101 – Community Talk – Just Another Undergrad
Scenes from Life – Syndication – The First Years Last Forever
The Mind’s Eye – Too Blunt for Words – Words, Observations, and Ramblings
A loving mother of a son who has changed her life and put it into perspective. Ayesha is a senior social media specialist, a Global Leader for young children in the Arab region, and a writer in few Arabic publications. Her column is written in collaboration with the Arabian Child organization, and offers inspiration and an in-depth exploration of early childhood development.