Sunday, February 03, 2008

how to make someone else's life (and your own) a bit easier

from working in a kindergarten there's a few things that drive me--and the other staff--crazy so here's some tips for parents sending their kids off to kindergarten (or child care or even school). i've also put a summary at the bottom cuz it is a lot of writing to go thru:

1. NO lace up shoes (not sure why parents even buy their children shoes with laces when they're too young to even learn how to tie them). having shoes they can't put on or take off themselves limits their independence. if they need to rely on an adult for help sometimes it means they have to wait a few minutes while their friends go off to play without them (i wasn't even allowed to own lace up shoes until i learned to tie a bow-- i REALLY wanted the strawberry shortcake lace-up shoes so i practiced hard so i would be allowed to get them)

2. LABEL EVERYTHING!! i'm always surprised at the amount of designer kids clothes parents allow their children to wear to kinder but it’s always odd how annoyed parents get when their child loses the item at kinder and when we ask the parents if it had the child’s name on it they say no. when we find clothing lying around (hats and jumpers seem to be the main things kids throw off where ever is convenient at the time) we just throw it in a big lost property box-- if it has a name on it we can easily put it in the child’s locker until next time they come. same thing goes for lunch boxes (and all the little tupperware containers inside that parents get upset about losing), shoes (we've had kids wear the wrong shoes home when someone else has the same ones), any toys from home (which shouldn't come to kinder anyway), rest blankets and soft toys, water bottles........ anything that comes with the child into the building should have the child's name on it.
3. dress your child appropriately for all types of play and weather. we try to get the parents to leave a bag of spare clothes at kinder including jumper, t-shirt and pants or shorts (and spare socks and underwear too). it’s useful when we have days that start off cold and end up being really warm/hot or vice versa (which seems to happen a lot in melbourne). its always good if the child has some extra warm stuff or a t-shirt to change into if they get too warm. they should also wear clothes that are good for running, climbing and getting dirty cuz that's what they're gonna do (i find it weird when little girls wear long skirts and dresses and then trying to climb on the climbing stuff with long hems stuck under their feet). most child care/kinders/schools have sun smart policies in place too which require wide brimmed or legionnaires hats in terms 1 and 4 (NO baseball caps-- they don't protect the ears or necks) and tops must cover their shoulders (no singlets or sleeveless dresses/tops).
4. try to involve your child in packing their lunch so they can't say they don't like everything in it (it will also help them learn how to pack a healthy lunch with foods they like). also make sure you adhere to any food policies the centre/school may have (i.e. nut free, no junk food-- they do not need to have that special treat of a bite size chocolate bar or cookie in their lunch and if all the children know the no junk food policy they end up embarrassing the child who has the treat in their lunch by telling on them or making them feel horrible about their "treat").
5. don't tell an apprehensive child that you will be picking them up early-- it doesn't help (and someone usually ends up having to sit with them the whole day). even if you are gonna come an hour early to get them it doesn't seem early to them and they end up spending the whole day being stressed and awaiting your arrival. just surprise them with an early arrival (and they'll probably be playing with some new friends they made but happy to see you!).
6. READ the information given to you by the centre/school. sometimes this seems like a lot (we try to minimize what we give to parents cuz we know there can be an information overload) but it is really hard for us when parents don't read things like orientation days, final days (we had a LOT of parents shocked that the last day the kinder was open was thursday instead of friday even though we had it written in several places over a few weeks). write down those important dates as soon as you see them, make notes of important policies (i.e. we have a couple children HIGHLY allergic to nuts so we need to make sure that no child brings in nuts or nut products)
7. if you think your child is a bit young for kinder maybe wait a year before starting (especially if they are on the younger end of the cut off). you could discuss this with the kinder before enrolling your child. unless there is a VERY good reason, your child only gets 1 funded year of kinder in victoria (and probably other australian states) and a lot of places cannot take a child for a second year even if the parents are paying just because of long waitlists of children going for their funded year. most children will be fine moving on to school after a year of 4 year old kinder. talk to your child's kinder teacher if you have concerns. they will be able to work out with you whether your child will be ready for school when the time comes. sometimes that second year of kinder can cause the child to dumb down (i've seen it happen a couple times just in the few years i've worked in kinder). if your child will actually benefit from a second year of kinder, their teacher will be able to help you. don't just do it cuz you don't want your child to be the youngest in his class at school (probably should just wait a year to do 4 year old kinder instead of trying to get a second year).

so to summerize:
pretty much just make sure your child can independently get thru their day (although we're always willing to help-- we can't give constant help to 25 children) and that all their stuff is labeled (helps if they can recognize their belongings too) cuz they are gonna put them in weird spots and you're way more likely to get it back if we know who it belongs to, read information you're given and mark important dates/policies etc, talk to the teacher before and thruout the year

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