Kindergarten is a much anticipated milestone in life. Parents may find themselves feeling apprehensive about this next step in the development and growth of their child. Some children may also be nervous or upset at the idea of being away from their family and home environment. Learning about what to expect may help ease some potential worry about the unknown and the unfamiliar.
In Kindergarten, we begin to learn and acquire skills that we will use for the rest of our lives. Robert Fulghum's 1986 book, "All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten" reinforces this point. Five year olds can communicate their ideas well and also love to please the adults that care for them. Among Fulghum's list of Kindergarten learnings are: "(learn to) share, play fair, and put things back where you found them". A simple harmonious vision which also includes saying you're sorry when you hurt someone.
Walking into a Kindergarten class is exciting. Children experience the first day very differently, from "eager in exploring" to "cautious in venturing forth". Some may surprise you! For example, a child who is quiet at home may gravitate to the musical instruments right away and bang out a joyful noise in delight. Kindergarten teachers excel in creating interesting and relevant learning environments every day of the week. There is a lot of preparation that is done behind the scenes in the classroom to encourage children to be active, not only in mind but in their bodies as well.
In the Kindergarten setting, teachers set a firm and kind learning environment. Parents may worry should their child be quickly triggered by another child taking a toy they wanted. A child behaving aggressively toward others is just as concerning as when they withdraw and appear easily put off in social situations. Conflict is a reality in all walks of life. Having "ground rules" for resolving conflict begins in Kindergarten.
Kindergarten is an opportunity to express our natural joy and creativity in a structured way. The World Health organization states that "health" is a resource for daily living and not just the absence of disease. When we experience good health and energy, it is natural to want to share our talents with others. Teachers and parents encourage these positive interactions.
These days, children are not encouraged to share the lunches that they bring from home as certain children have food intolerances. However, having lunch together as a shared activity teaches us at an early age to associate healthy food with social interaction. As a parent you can participate in your child's daily routine in a fun way by placing little notes or jokes in their lunch bags. Also, children drinking water rather than juice in the classroom promotes comradery as well as tooth cavity prevention over the year. Drinking water also reduces the amount of sugar children consume on a daily basis.
Listening to the teacher and not interrupting when other children speak ensures classroom safety and respect. Some children are easily distracted when the noise level is too high. Teachers continuously monitor individual student progress and assess whether or not there might be hearing, vision, or speech deficits occurring.
School referrals to Public Health practitioners, such as nurses, dental hygienists, sensory screeners, and speech/language therapists support many Kindergarten students' learning experience. Annual Kindergarten screening and immunization clinics will be offered in many communities for families to attend before Kindergarten begins in the Fall of 2017. Contact Public Health in your community for more information.
Written by Dr. Paul Martiquet is the Medical Health Officer for the Sunshine Coast and Powell River.