What guidelines at home will help your child be ready to learn at school? Ask yourself: Do I know the daily routines kids need, including how much sleep and exercise she needs? What are the best ways for her to spend her time after her day in kindergarten?
1. Make sure you have set routines that occur at regular times each day, such as getting dressed, mealtimes, TV (if any), toy pickup, bathtime and bedtime. Regular routines help a child know what’s expected and be more willing to comply. Without routines for all the daily-expected activities, children test the limits more. In addition to routines’ making home life more agreeable, they help children accept daily school expectations such as putting backpacks away, cleaning up their work space, and listening to the bell when recess is over.
2. Especially in the first half of the school year, schedule your kids into very few activities beyond the school day, because the demands of kindergarten are often exhausting for children.
3. A regular bedtime makes it much easier for your children to fall asleep faster. Younger kids need more sleep – five-year-olds as much as 11 hours a night, six-year-olds 10 to 11 hours. This means bedtime around 8 to 8:30 p.m., with kids getting up about 6:30-7 a.m. Make sure you don’t regularly wake your children in the morning.If they don’t wake up on their own, it means they’re not getting enough sleep. They are still growing and developing and don’t do well if they haven’t had all the sleep they need. (If necessary, move your child’s bedtime back about 15 minutes, and after a few days, move it back 15 more minutes.)
4. A minimum of an hour a day of heart-pounding exercise is essential. This includes running around, kicking a soccer ball, biking, jumping, e.g. on a mini-trampoline; basically, moving fast. Some children who are very high-energy and find it hard to sit still long enough in school will do much better having 10 or 15 minutes of running around (at home or at school) before they start their school day. (If your child needs lots of exercise, find out if she’s being active or not during outdoor time.) Also, if your child’s not active enough on her own, add exercise into your family time. When she’s adjusted to the demands of kindergarten, you can schedule some additional activities for her, including active ones if she needs them.
5. If your child has a long school day (five hours or more), eliminate television from the daily routine. There are better ways for your child to relax. Children need time to be with you after they’ve been in a group all day – talking, playing with you, even working with you on chores. And they need time to follow their own interests and/or be with sibs and neighborhood kids. TV is a mesmerizing and sedentary type of activity, although some shows do aid learning and are worthwhile entertainment. Parents know that they have to limit TV viewing and typically have rules, such as TV only on weekends for an hour. When there is a short school day, a half hour is reasonable.
6. Remember to keep teaching your child about healthy food. She needs that to have enough stamina for the day and to build the foundation for a healthy body and a healthy life. Check in with the school so you can see if the kids have enough adult supervision to actually eat their morning snack and their lunch rather than throwing them in the garbage. (It’s useful for parents to see what comes home uneaten.) Check to see if the school’s staff has rules about eating the healthier food first and not allowing children to give each other food.
Excerpted with permission from I’m Getting Ready for Kindergarten, (2013, www.PerfectingParentingPress.com).
Dr. B. Annye Rothenberg, who is also an adjunct faculty member in pediatrics at Stanford University Medical School and a mother, has guided hundreds of typical families with young children over more than 25 years.