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How to prepare for the first day of kindergarten? A veteran teacher weighs in





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The first day of school can be an exciting one for parents and kids, but also a stressful day, especially for the newest kids on the block: kindergarteners.

There's even a new children's book out about the tricky transition to kindergarten, called "Eva and Sadie and the Best Classroom EVER!"

Author and dad Jeff Cohen's first kid's book ("Eva and Sadie and the Worst Haircut EVER!") came about after he recorded his two young daughters talking about a haircut gone terribly awry. The audio clip he posted online went viral and landed the family a book deal.

In "Eva and Sadie and the Best Classroom EVER!" Sadie teaches her little sister, Eva, all about kindergarten.

Cohen says the idea for the book came from a pretend classroom that the girls play with at home, and from his memories of his own anxieties about starting school. But it's not just kids who are  stressed about the first day of kindergarten.

“It’s hard for parents, especially for parents," Cohen says. "I think there’s a lot of pressure and I think kids pick up on that.” 

Veteran teacher Sharon Lee agrees. She runs parenting support groups in L.A. and seminar for parents called "Kindergarten or Bust."

"I definitely think we stress more, for multitudes of reasons," Lee says. "Partly because parents have a choice now, where years ago we didn't really have a choice... And so then [parents] invest their time and their thought... and that just culminates. And I think about it, on the the first day of kindergarten, there you are, it's this heightened experience."

In her "Kindergarten or Bust" seminars, Lee tries to ease parents' fears, and offers these tips:

"The kindergartener, the child, is perfectly perfect being who they are as a human being. Because that's developmental. They've evolved knowing how to walk and talk and be independent. Those are your goals for a five-year-old child, developmentally.

It's always helpful for any child to go into kindergarten with their basic skills of the alphabet, and knowing how to count, and holding a pencil, sitting for short periods of time, and working on transition.

The most important thing that I think people have to realize is all this doesn't haven't have to be 'drilled and killed' into them throughout pre-school. It can just evolve naturally just by being in a healthy family environment where there's a lot of language and interaction.

But a lot of what we look for as a kindergarten teacher is for them to be emotionally ready... We want to make sure they're ready for this big day ahead, this big year ahead."

"The line is hard to walk. When do you know when to choose your battles, to hurry up and get in the car, and to let them do it themselves. And I think as parents we have to step back and think, years ago, there was no Velcro! Every child starting kindergarten, they knew how to tie their shoes. And now, my back hurts because I have to bend over all the time trying to teach children how to tie their shoes. 

If you really think about it, they developmentally have the finger strength, the eye ability to find a matching pair, and if they put them on the wrong feet, then that's their teachable moment that we as parents need to let them do. So I really encourage parents to use as much as your opportunities permit to teach you child to be independent."

"Trust your teachers, trust that this is a rite of passage that everybody goes through. Look back where you were, and you're okay. Somewhere along the line, somebody will find out what their needs and get them met.

And give it some time... Breathe, and kind of just reflect back, because our own emotions are going to easily project onto the kids. And that's what you don't want."

To hear the full interviews with Jeff Cohen and Sharon Lee, click the link above.