5 Great Ways to Prepare Your Children for Their First Day of School (and Beyond)

CHI_027Are your children ready for their first few days of school? Kindergarten is the first step on the academic journey and an important milestone in social development, so it’s normal for parents to wonder if their children are prepared enough. If you are feeling this way, it can be helpful to remember that you are your children’s first teacher—you’ve already helped prepare your children for school through the talking, reading, playing, writing, and singing you do with them every day. You can continue to prepare your children over the next few weeks by engaging them in those same kinds of day-to-day interactions. Here are a few of the activities you can try:

1. Kindergarten Rehearsal

Try to incorporate the idea of kindergarten into as many interactions as possible. Walk your children through the same neighborhood that their new school is in, and if you can, give them a tour of the new school. If your children will be taking the bus, take them on public transit a few times so that they can get used to it. At home, you can “play kindergarten” with them by rehearsing drop offs and picks ups or by playing a game at dinner where they have to raise their hand before answering or asking a question. Talk enthusiastically about the first day of school and encourage you child to talk about it, too.

2. Independence Practice

When children go to their first day of school, they need to be able to do certain tasks on their own. You can help prepare them for these tasks by practicing them at home as much as possible and as often as possible. Offer encouragement and try to incorporate the tasks into everyday activities, games, and situations. Here are a few of the things they will need to know how to do:

  • Tying and untying shoelaces
  • Dressing and undressing (unbuttoning and buttoning pants, pulling off boots, zipping and unzipping coats)
  • Opening and closing backpacks and lunchboxes
  • Knowing full name, age, and phone number
  • Going to the bathroom
  • Following two-step directions (take your shoes off and sit at your desk)
  • Separating from parents and caregivers

3. Group Cooperation

On the first day of school, your children will become part of a larger group made up of classmates and peers. The teacher will expect your children to contribute to this larger group. You can prepare your children for this by giving them simple chores to do around the house, and then explaining why those chores are important. Here are some examples of what you can have them do:

  • Making the bed
  • Putting toys away
  • Setting the table
  • Putting away dishes
  • Putting groceries in the basket
  • Helping with brothers and sisters

4. School Subject Fun

Encourage your children’s interest in science, math, reading and writing by weaving those subjects into daily conversation. If you want your children to learn about science, talk to them about the foods they see at the grocery store or in the fridge—ask them to identify the vegetables, fruits, or grains, and then have a conversation with them about healthy and unhealthy foods. For math, you can have them count their steps when they walk up or down the stairs, or you can get them to practice subtracting and adding when they are putting away their toys. Look at books with them and talk about the pictures and words they see. Ask them questions about how the ideas and pictures relate to episodes and situations from their own lives.

5. Paper, Crayons, Go!

Screens are everywhere—including in the classroom—but children still need to know how to use pencils, paper, glue sticks, and crayons. Teachers say that new students sometimes lack fine motor skills because they spend so much time on screens. You can increase your children’s fine motor skills by encouraging them to write and draw (the old fashioned way) using pencils and papers, and by limiting the time they spend on tablets and phones. If possible, provide your children with art supplies and a dedicated place to write and draw. Let them scribble faces, draw animal pictures, finger paint a landscape, practice letters, or colour in colouring books.

Practicing these activities will surely help your children feel more confident about starting school.

For more information about family literacy, visit the Centre for Family Literacy website: www.famlit.ca

So What is Rhymes that Bind?


So what is Rhymes that Bind? It is a fun program for families that promotes language development—the foundation for literacy—through rhymes, songs, and stories.

The program runs once a week for ten weeks. We play, have fun, and sing with our infants and toddlers, helping our them to develop strong language skills. A snack is given half way through the hour-long program, and the program is free!

To maximize your Rhymes that Bind experience, be prepared to :

  • Be adventurous and willing to try a boisterous experience with your child or children, interacting and engaging with them through our repertoire of tickle, bouncy, action songs and lullabies.
  • Practice your social skills by connecting with other moms, dads, or caregivers who can commiserate with you about the challenges and wonders of parenting. New friendships are made here.
  • Sit in a yoga pose or other comfortable position on a blanket of your choice on the floor. Being at eye level with your child gives you a whole new perspective on how they engage with you.
  • Learn a new songs that your child will have you sing over and over again until you are completely and utterly ready to give up singing for life!
  • Anticipate that a toddler, besides your own, may come and plop themselves into your lap. This can happen soon after they have become comfortable. Seeing and hearing you develop a relationship with their parent makes you a safe and secure place to be.
  • Bring along your “parenting toolbox” of ideas. Add to it new tools for connecting and transitioning, and fun routines through songs and play. Build confidence in your parenting as you share your tips/tools with others.
  • Connect with your community and discover what else might be happening in and around your neighborhood. Seeing other families you recognize in the community builds friendships. Why not plan a play date at the park?
  • Discover a program near you; the program is delivered in many communities across Edmonton. Most families can attend with a short drive, bus ride, or even a walk. Pick a day of the week and a location that works for your schedule.
  • Have an outing—get out of the house.
  • Have FUN! Plain and simple. Come out and see for yourself!

Rhymes that Bind fall schedule begins Monday, October 3, 2016. All of our programs are drop-in except for our multi-generational program (held at Touchmark at Wedgewood,  1833 Lessard Road). This program requires preregistration.

For more information or to register, please call 780 421-7324 ext. 235, email info@famlit.ca, or check the Centre for Family Literacy website: www.famlit.ca


Learning About Colours

There are many things you can do to help your child learn about different concepts, such as reading books, making crafts, and singing songs. One of the concepts your child will need to learn is colours.

Read Books

The Day the Crayons QuitIn the Alberta Prairie C.O.W. (Classroom on Wheels) program, we like to share a book called The Day the Crayons Quit, written by Drew Daywalt and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers. In addition to learning about colours, this book can help your child understand their own emotions, as well as help to develop their empathy skills.

“Poor Duncan just wants to color. But when he opens his box of crayons, he finds only letters, all saying the same thing: His crayons have had enough! They quit! Beige Crayon is tired of playing second fiddle to Brown Crayon. Black wants to be used for more than just outlining. Blue needs a break from coloring all those bodies of water. And Orange and Yellow are no longer speaking – each believes he is the true color of the sun. What can Duncan possibly do to appease all the crayons and get them back to doing what they do best?”

Make Crafts

Here are some activities you can pair with this book:

Dear Crayon craft1.  Use a box of crayons to extend the story. As you read each crayon’s letter, ask your child to take that colour of crayon out of the box. What can they draw with it?

2.  Ask your child how they think each crayon was feeling when they wrote their letter. Use a large index card to write back to one of the crayons in the story. Draw and colour in the crayon that you are addressing, and tell your crayon why they should not quit. Make one for as many colours as you like!

3.  Make your own crayon box.


•  Crayons
•  Markers
•  Pencil
•  Glue
•  Scissors
•  One sheet of yellow cardstock (8.5” X 11”)

Crayon Craft x 2Instructions:

  1. Draw and colour your own paper crayons (or use different colours of construction paper) and cut them out.
  2. Fold the yellow cardstock sheet in half and crease it.
  3. Open it up, and with your pencil, draw the opening of the box (a half circle) on the left-hand side of the sheet, making sure to leave about ¼” on either side.
  4. Cut out the opening, fold it back in place, and glue only the edges, so that you are still able to fit your paper crayons inside the “box”.
  5. Decorate your crayon box with crayons or markers!



Sing Songs

Teaching Mama” has some great resources, including “10 Preschool Songs About Colors.” One of my favourites is “Pass the Colour,” in the tune of “Row, Row, Row Your Boat:”

Sit in a circle and pass a crayon around, singing the song until the following verse is done. Then yell out the crayon’s colour! Continue with as many crayons as you like.

Pass, pass, pass the colour,
This is the game we play.
When the little song is through,
The colour name we’ll say.

For more craft ideas and book recommendations, check out the Centre for Family Literacy webpage: Resources for Parents


The C.O.W. is Coming Soon, but in the Meantime…


We hope that while you are enjoying summer to the fullest, you are still able to find fun ways to keep a little literacy in your busy days. It really helps to prevent the summer slide, where children lose some of what they had learned during the program or school year.

Here are a few simple ideas:

  • Sing songs or nursery rhymes, and play rhyming words games while in the car
  • Point out print on traffic signs, cereal boxes, restaurants, anywhere!
  • Play games such as Simon Says, Hopscotch, or I Spy
  • Take your children to the library and let them choose their books
  • Tell stories to each other
  • Read aloud to your child
  • Encourage older siblings to read with younger children
  • Look for shapes in the clouds
  • Have books around the house and let your child see you reading
  • Do Splash Time Rhymes that Bind while at the beach, pool, or water park (blog with rhymes can be found here http://www.famlit.ca/blog/?p=3077)
  • Download the Flit app with 100 fun literacy activities to do with your child

Meanwhile, at the Centre for Family Literacy, the Edmonton Literacy C.O.W. (Classroom on Wheels) Bus program is busy preparing for your visits in the fall, with new themes, new books, and new games and puzzles for parents and their children ages 0-6 years old.

We have extensively added to our books for adults and now have a fiction section. We have books that are science fiction, love stories, memoirs, and many others. Of course we still have an abundance of non-fiction books for adults on various parenting topics, from how to get your kids to sleep with a no-cry solution, to humour in our everyday lives as parents. And as always we have a great selection of books for young children.

So keep soaking up the sunshine while you can (and maybe add some story time under a tree); the Edmonton Literacy C.O.W. Bus staff are busy planning and preparing a great 2016/2017 season for you.

Please check the Centre for Family Literacy website in mid August to find the most convenient location and time for you to drop in and see us at the Edmonton C.O.W. Bus. Hope to see you in September!