Peter Ludwig (left) watches as his big brother Bubba gets ready for his first day in kindergarten last year. | Howard A. Ludwig~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: August 23, 2012 10:32AM
The first day of kindergarten often comes with an emotional send-off.
Parents hold back tears while snapping pictures in the parking lot. There are new faces, and fresh haircuts abound. For many kindergartners, this is their first experience at daylong schooling.
Fear not. Just as your child once struggled to drink from a bottle or walk without the help of your pant leg, he or she eventually will grasp the concept of kindergarten. Friends will be made along with indelible memories.
But as the back-to-school sales begin, you’re sure to have questions. I certainly did. Here are a few tips from a dad who sent his eldest son to kindergarten last year and lived to tell the tale.
Backpacks: The bigger, the better. Kindergarten students bring home all sorts of bulky projects. They also tend to shed clothes throughout the day. So find a backpack that can fit a lunch bag, a sweatshirt and artwork crafted from painted plastic bottles and toilet-paper tubes.
Naps: My son headed into kindergarten napping every afternoon. The teacher had a “quiet time” after lunch, but the excitement in the classroom kept most kids from dozing off.
Bubba survived without his daily nap, though he seemed more irritable by the end of the week. Bedtime was moved to 30 minutes earlier as a result, and Bubba was encouraged to catch up on rest over the weekend.
Water bottle: I was surprised by the number of kindergarten students who bring water bottles rather than juice boxes to school. It’s certainly healthy. The kids also seem to appreciate the environmental benefits of the reusable container.
So invest in a high-quality water bottle. These things get beat up at school and in the dishwasher. A $15 water bottle seems obnoxious, but it’s cheaper than a daily juice box prescription.
Clothes: Next to coal miners, I think kindergartners put their clothes to the toughest test. Be prepared to cycle some new duds into the mix around Christmas. If you are buying school uniforms, buy extra outfits during the back-to-school sales and shelve them for later. Uniforms are never cheaper than they are in August.
Befriend an elder: It’s often valuable to make friends with a kindergarten parent who has older children in the same school. This person knows the ropes and can give you a heads-up on everything from parent-teacher conferences to the mandatory lead test.
Be visible: Volunteer as often as possible. Don’t be afraid to hang out in the parking lot a bit both before school and after. Other parents are more apt to ask your child for a play date if they see you regularly.
Watching everyone line up for the morning bell also allows you to see how your son or daughter interacts with classmates. This can be very different from how they act at home. Here’s your chance to find out if your child is the class clown, a shy guy or Mr. Popular.
Take it all in: Children enter kindergarten with wide-eyed excitement that’s never quite duplicated. Take lots of pictures and try to remember as much as possible.
The primary school years are a wild ride. The journey begins in kindergarten.
Howard A. Ludwig is a former SouthtownStar business writer who traded his reporter’s notebook for a diaper bag.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.