Ready, Set, Kindergarten! A VERY short list of what your new JK needs.

I like to think that my kids see me as a kind of superhero, changing capes 3 times a day: By morning, I teach classrooms full of amazing little people to do amazing things! By afternoon, I am a fearless entrepreneur, queen of my own clothing empire! By evening, I am chef, homework coach, boo boo buster, storyteller, songstress and master bath-runner! By nine o’clock, the only thing I’m super at is streaming Netflix. But I digress...
My three roles -- primary school teacher, children’s clothing shop owner & mom -- overlap in that I have a lot of experience getting little people ready. With my years of kindergarten teaching experience, and three kids of my own, I come to the retail “Back to School” season a bit, well...seasoned. When I see conventional retailers listing all the things your kids “need” to be ready for school, I want to shout “Wait! Cut that list in half! In quarters!”
Here’s the short(er) version of the “What your Kindergartener Needs” list:
  1. Two good pairs of running shoes: one for outdoor play, and another to leave at school as “indoor shoes.” My suggestion is always that outdoor shoes be solid-sole rubber bottom shoes, as asphalt pavement seems to eat sneakers for snack.
  2. A backpack. Choose one big enough to hold a large-format picture book from the library and a duo-tang or folder from your child’s teacher. Most JK/SK programs send some form of communication folder back and forth between home and school.
  3. A lunch & snacks. Choose reusable containers that your child can open independently. Have your child try before you buy, and then practice at home, for end of summer snack and lunch times.
  4. A full change of clean clothes, and a plastic bag for sending home the dirty ones. Accidents happen, in the bathroom, in the classroom, in the lunch room, in the painting centre...you name it. The teacher will be matter-of-fact about them, and your child will not be shamed or chastised -- just asked to change into dry clothes. I recommend both dressing your child in, and sending, elastic-waist pants without belts or buttons, to make sure that your child is fully independent in the washroom. Super cute outfits are my personal weakness (go figure, given my business!) but independent dressing skills trump trends in kindergarten.
  5. A lot of support and encouragement that he/she is ready, and has “got this!”
That’s it, really!
Public school boards in Toronto provide all the crayons and scissors your child will need. Some schools ask for classroom fund contributions, and these are helpful to your child’s teacher, of course, but optional.
At home, you can extend your child’s learning by setting up a kid-scale work area, with the following materials:
  1. Crayons, pencils, pencil crayons and watercolour paints & brushes,
  2. A variety of lined and unlined paper, as well as construction paper for cutting & pasting; card stock is particularly good for fine motor practice cutting with scissors,
  3. Books to read, copy from and be inspired by,
  4. Glue sticks,
  5. Child-safe scissors,
  6. Display area such as bulletin board, magnetic board, or simple clothesline, for “publishing” and celebrating work made at home, or brought home from school.
JK is an exciting and sometimes scary time for parents! Take lots of pictures, give lots of cuddles and encouragement, and don’t sweat either the little stuff or the big lists.
Rebecca Saha
iSpy Clothing co-owner/curator, TDSB teacher, mom to Jack, Asha & Mia

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