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How to prepare your child for first grade

Caroline Duda has years of experience as an SAT tutor for Varsity Tutors. She earned an MFA in Creative Writing from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

While the transition from kindergarten to first grade is an exciting one for both child and parent, it can also cause anxiety and nervousness in both parties. Below are several suggestions to help you and your student prepare for this new stage in his or her schooling.

Be patient

You may wish to speak with your child about first grade the moment kindergarten ends. Remember, however, that young students do not possess the same concept of time as adults. Informing your child at the beginning of summer that soon she will begin first grade may confuse her and cause undue anxiety. Instead, wait until a few weeks before school begins to discuss first grade.

Establish a routine

Your student's kindergarten and first grade classrooms may differ in routine, with the latter being more regimented. To aid your child with this adjustment, establish a routine in your home. Establish designated times for certain activities, and adhere to them. There are many online resources that can assist with this process; some even provide sample schedules. Focus especially on transitions between activities, which is an important skill for first-graders to demonstrate.

Practice independence

Encourage your student to be independent. By doing so, you will be further assisting him or her with those skills he or she will need in first grade. Give your child more responsibility around the house, as well as for his or her own self-care. By doing so, your student will be more prepared for the independence that is necessary as he or she enters elementary school.

Strengthen academic abilities

Ensure your child's brain remains active by finding entertaining ways to practice basic academic skills. Use sidewalk chalk to write the alphabet outdoors. When running errands, see what letters you and your student can locate on signs around town. Practice number sense by counting the groceries in your cart. Visit the library often, and check out books to read with your child. This continued exposure to academics will ready her for the start of the school year.

Visit the school

When it is time to begin discussing the transition to first grade, ease your student's adjustment by introducing him or her to the classroom or school. Play at the school's playground if your child is not yet familiar with the location. Call the school, and inquire about whether there is a time you can meet the teacher before the year starts. If not, ask whether you can see the classroom. Certain districts offer open houses prior to the start of the school year; if yours does, take advantage of this opportunity. The more your student knows about her school environment, the less nervous she is likely to be on her first day.

By helping your child build these skills now, he or she will be better prepared for the transition to first grade. Above all, remember that this is a time of excitement and academic exploration that can help to shape his or her future school years, so enjoy the experience alongside your student.

For more tips and strategies to help your student succeed in school, visit www.varsitytutors.com.

Photo credit: E Dygas/Photodisc/Getty Images
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