Starting kindergarten in Singapore is a milestone for children who were previously homeschooled or only attended two-hour playgroup sessions or parent-accompanied enrichment classes. Kindergarten is where they will have to get used to not having their parents with them for most of their waking hours.
However, making this transition is beneficial as it is a time of growth for your child, who is no longer a baby, but a bright preschooler ready to start their own learning journey in kindergarten.
Tips to help your child adapt to Kindergarten in Singapore
1. Encourage independent self-help skills
Children of this age have a fierce desire to do things on their own, like buttoning their own clothes, helping out with daily chores, putting away toys and learning materials, and washing their own dishes. These self-help skills will be honed in kindergarten children in Singapore as they are surrounded by like-minded peers.
Before enrolling your child to kindergarten, give them more opportunity to attempt tasks on their own, such as running a small errand, with minimal or no parental intervention. You may find that they are more capable than you expected!
2. Reinforce Hygiene and Toileting Skills
Childcare centres and kindergartens in Singapore are places where many children congregate daily, so the importance of hygiene cannot be neglected. Basic hygiene must be observed to prevent and minimise the spread of harmful diseases such as Hand, Foot & Mouth Disease and stomach flu.
Besides wiping and flushing after going to the toilet, did you know that there is an 8-step process for washing your hands? While children may not be able to follow all the steps in detail, you can start by modelling the process for them to mimic.
3. Have a heart-to-heart talk with your child
At five years of age, your child should be able to communicate their fears about being away from you. Instead of avoiding the topic, embrace it and approach the topic together with your child. If they find it hard to verbalise their thoughts, drawing or writing could be an alternative method of expressing their feelings.
You can use a few questions to trigger conversation, such as “What are you most worried about being away from me?”, or “What do you think kindergarten is?”.
When they have started kindergarten, you can ask them how their day went, or what they liked about the lessons and enrichment classes.
Above all, reassure your child that you or a trusted adult will be there when dropping them off and picking them up from kindergarten and that it is certainly not abandonment, as some children may feel.
4. Include a small keepsake
Children may feel more secure if they have a small memento or keepsake from their parent to accompany them when they are separated during the school day. This can be a trinket, a small stuffed toy or even a small photograph that they can keep in their pocket.
5. Evaluate your own feelings
The strangest thing is that you as the parent may find that you’re feeling even more jittery than your child, and that your child could be even eager to attend kindergarten!
There are times where we have to evaluate our feelings and come to terms with loosening the strings in order to let our child grow up. Many kindergartens and childcare centres have communication books or mobile applications where parents can keep track of their children’s progress in school and communicate with the teachers on queries and concerns.
To a young child, the thought of starting kindergarten where they will be without their parents could make them fearful. However, once they start school, they will realise that they are not alone, but surrounded by many classmates and loving, dedicated teachers who will facilitate them. You can assist your child by continuing to be there to listen to their fears and ease their concerns.
Written by Jamie Koh