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How to Prepare Your Child for Elementary School

How to Prepare Your Child for Elementary School
June 20, 2023

As your child approaches elementary school, they may have a year or more of school under their belt - but that doesn’t mean that elementary school is any less of a transition! Elementary school is often your child’s first whole-day school experience, and is usually more structured than any nursery school or kindergarten programs. Therefore, it’s a good idea to take a few simple steps to help your child prepare for elementary school. 

Socio-Emotional Readiness

Your main goal in prioritizing socio-emotional readiness ahead of elementary school is to make your child comfortable and confident (to the extent possible) with the new experience coming their way. You can take a few simple steps to begin building excitement, visualizing the future, and forming social connections:

  • Introduce your child to the physical environment of the school as much as possible, particularly if it’s their first time going there. Print out pictures of the new school and tape them in a prominent place for your child to see often. Even better, drive or walk past the school, discussing how your child will get there in the morning and where they’ll be picked up/dropped off. 
  • Print out a simple calendar and start a countdown to the first day of school. This step not only makes the first day seem like an exciting thing to look forward to (rather than a sad “end of summer”), but also helps your child practice understanding the passage of time and the format of a calendar. 
  • If possible, learn who your child’s teachers will be and share their names with your child. Begin referencing those teachers frequently, so your child grows more familiar with the adults that will soon be a big part of their lives. 
  • Try to get acquainted with a family from the new school and set up playdates to help your child meet a new friend or two. (Some schools help facilitate this by introducing you to a “buddy family.”) 
  • A few weeks before school starts, begin a slow transition to waking your child up at school time - you don’t want the first day to start with a shockingly early wake-up! 

Independence Readiness

Elementary school is the next step in your child’s independence journey: more time spent away from home, more complex responsibilities, and potentially more stressful social situations will likely await them in the years to come. By slowly turning over more and more of their personal care to your child, you can help them build confidence in their ability to handle whatever comes their way. Here are a few low-pressure ways to boost your child’s independence: 

  • Use the more relaxed summer months to let your child take the lead in getting dressed, picking out their breakfast, sequencing their morning routines, and other basic tasks. Be prepared for these steps to take more time while your child gains experience - try to be patient and let them explore!
  • As you look toward the first day of school, sit down with your child to make a list of snacks and lunch foods that they’d like to take with them. Even better if you can get your child involved in preparing some basic foods, like making sandwiches, putting small snacks into containers, etc. 
  • If your child seems developmentally ready for this step, begin teaching them how to tie shoelaces. Again, patience may be required here - but try to incorporate learning moments when you’re not in an urgent rush to get out the door. 
  • Do your best to help your child become fully potty trained by the time elementary school starts, but don’t stress too much (or stress out your child too much) - accidents happen! You’ll often send along a change of clothes to keep at school in case your child needs them. 

Academic Readiness

While it’s a good idea to dedicate a bit of time toward academic readiness as your child begins elementary school, don’t worry too much about practicing every single academic subject and skill - that’s what school is for! Socio-emotional stability and independence are often the areas that parents are uniquely equipped to work on with their children, so prioritize those. But when you do have a few moments to incorporate some learning, you can: 

  • Play games! At this age, kids learn best through fun and new experiences. Basic games like Chutes and Ladders or Candyland are great ways to practice skills like counting, colors, etc. in a fun way.
  • Help your child practice recognizing and writing their name. This is an easy skill to incorporate into relaxed coloring/drawing time - keep a steady habit of writing your child’s name yourself and pointing it out to them, and gradually encourage them to mimic the shapes of the letters. 
  • Work on counting. Again, practice this skill in a fun way - count the number of ducks you see in the park, count the number of stuffed animals your child puts away during clean-up time, etc. Ideally your child will be able to count to at least 20 by the time they start elementary school, but don’t worry if they aren’t quite there yet. 
  • Remember to schedule any learning evaluations, eye exams, and/or hearing tests if your child needs them. It’s a good idea to get these done before school starts so you can share and discuss any results with your child’s new teachers. 

While any of the above steps are great ways to prepare your child for elementary school, remember that your child is already preparing for school every day just by experiencing the world alongside you. While summer is a great time to practice some skills, it’s also a great time for unstructured play, time outside in nature, social activities with other kids, and the many other ways that children grow and mature. 

Trying to plan out your child’s educational journey? We’re here for you. Admit NY offers personalized guidance to help your child and family find the perfect school. Reach out today for more information.