Ready for Kindergarten Day Four: Self-Help Skills
Welcome to Day Four of the Ready for Kindergarten: 30 Days of Activities, Ideas, and Learning Fun series here on Chasing Supermom.
Today’s focus is on self-help skills. These skills are easy to overlook and not often thought of as a priority, but teaching your child things like buttoning their own coat, putting away their supplies, and tying their own shoes saves precious classroom time for learning.
As moms, we’re natural helpers. We spend a lot of our time and energy doing things for our kids. Sometimes we help because our kids are too young to do something for themselves. Sometimes we simply do those things for our children because we can do it faster/better, etc. I’ll admit that sometimes it’s just easier to do things for my kids. I zip faster. I tie their shoes in a normal way. I put their backpacks away the correct way…and on and on the list goes. The only problem is, when school starts, many of our kids have never been given the opportunity to be independent, and ultimately lack self-help skills.
By taking the last few weeks of summer to reinforce these self-help skills, you’re not only helping your child become more independent and self-reliant, you are helping their teacher by protecting classroom time. (Plus, I’ve always found that it’s easier to invest a little more time now, and have kids who help and “can do” later on!)
Here are a few self-help skills your kindergartner should know how to do on their own:
1. Put on their coat/jacket
Yes, it’s hot, BUT have your child practice putting on AND buttoning/zipping their own coat. I have found that kids get the best practice with zipping and buttoning in a natural setting, so have your child wear the item. (It’s harder to learn practicing on an article of clothing that you’re not wearing, as you are typically learning backwards! Kids need to feel where their hands need to be. Dressing skills are tactile. Practice is best.)
*Modify this skill based on your climate. If you live in an area where your child will need gloves, scarves, etc. make sure they know how to put on/take off those items. If your child needs to use an umbrella, make sure they know how.
It’s also important to note that not all teachers make their students wear coats. Often, even if it’s cold, if a child doesn’t know how to put their coat on, he/she will leave it in the classroom.
Another tip is to teach your child how to tie their jacket around their waist. Many students get hot at recess and simply throw their jacket on the ground. Many of those jackets go to die at the bottom of the school lost and found bin. Instead of losing jackets, teach your child how to tie it around their waist. (And label everything you send to school with your child…trust me on this one!!)
2. Button/Zip Pants
This is something most teachers are trained NOT to help with (for legal reasons) so it’s best to teach your child to button their pants after using the bathroom. If your child has a pair of jeans with a tricky button, have them practice (and practice again!) until he/she can do it easily on their own.
Likewise, teach your child to check their zipper after using the restroom. Better to avoid the embarrassment of a classmate calling out, “I can see Jimmy’s undies” and teach them to always zip up now!
3. Bathroom Skills
By kindergarten, most kids have the bathroom down. However, there are a few things to remind your child about that could help them and keep them from any unfortunate events in the classroom.
- Make sure your child is a great wiper. No one wants to be the “smelly kid.” Yes, it’s a little embarrassing, but a refresher lesson from Mom is much better than a comment from a classmate.
- Remind your child that it is okay to let the teacher know when they have to go! Each year I had accidents occur because a child was too embarrassed or shy to speak up about needing to go!
- Reminders about hand-washing are always appreciated! The classroom is a full-on germfest, so kids with great handwashing skills are always awesome to have in kindergarten!
If you know ahead of time that you have a child that is more likely to have an accident, always keep an extra pair of undies/pants/socks in your child’s backpack. If a child has “normal” clothes to quickly change into, the other kids are much less likely to even notice. When your child has to wear the extra clothes from the school office/nurse, you never know what they might end up with, and it will be much more obvious that they had an accident.
4. Shoe Tying
I won’t say this is a MUST, but I will say that it is a life-saver for the teacher. Having the ability to tie shoes is also a safety issue. Kids often have their shoes come untied out on the playground and are unable to tie them. This results in many trips, falls, and accidents. Start working on this skill now, and make it your goal to have your child doing it independently by Christmas.
Make it fun! Have your child choose a reward to work for. My daughter wanted to earn a trip to the local indoor playground, and was very motivated to learn to tie her shoes to earn her prize.
Like with the coats, I found it is much easier for a child to practice with a shoe actually on their foot. They need to see and feel the laces in the correct hands, etc. I taught my daughter by sitting next to her (shoulder to shoulder) and demonstrating on her shoe. I’d been trying to teach her while facing her….and then it clicked that she needed the right perspective….3 or 4 tries later, she had it! You may need to play around with the language you use to help it click for your child. Some kids connect with the “bunny ears” and “go around the log and through the tunnel” narrative, and others do better with more literal wording like, “make a small hole with your thumb and push the rest of the laces through that hole.” Find what works for YOUR child. All kids learn differently and different language will work with different personalities and learning styles.
If you need to, break it down step by step. Most kids can master the first step (before the loops or bunny ears), and celebrating that first step helps build their confidence.
There are a lot of products out there to help learn shoe tying, but it’s my opinion that natural practice is the most effective.
*As a side-note, this is another one of those activities where I tell parents to anticipate tears. This can be very frustrating for kids. Just keep at it, little by little.
5. Put Away Their Things
Start now by helping your child be responsible for picking up after themselves. Have your child put away things like his/her shoes, jacket, dishes, toys, books, crayons and paper, etc. Let your child know that every item has a proper “home” where it belongs. Kids in kindergarten will be expected to pick things up in a neat, orderly, and quick way. It will take a little bit of effort on the front end, but the dividends of making your child be responsible for his/her things will pay off tenfold both at school AND at home!
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