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Challenge: It's Back to School: Share Your Advice

10 (Teacher-Requested) Skills Kids Need to Know Before Kindergarten

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A version of the following post was previously published on Jill Simonian's

Back to school already? Ugh. (Am I a nutbag for wanting a longer summer with my kids? Don't answer that.) With one daughter heading into 1st grade and the other starting 2nd... I guess now I'm a big-kid mom. (Professional.) No more Kinder-baby stuff.

But oh, the Kinder-baby stuff! I remember my first Kindergarten countdown: A few nights before my big girl started 'real school' I had a dream it was my first day of school and I was running around frantically from store to store searching for a notebook and all I could find were 4×4″ hot pink mini-notepads with Disney princesses printed on the front. In my dream, I kept telling the clerk “I can’t take notes with these… they’re too small!” I woke up with my heart pounding. I thought I was so much cooler than being a nervous mess about my first-born starting Kindergarten... I wasn't.

So the following year (the summer before my youngest started Kinder) I asked a few of my closest friends who were Kindergarten teachers, “Gimme your best tips for things to teach kids before Kindergarten!” I was thinking along the lines of writing letters and counting to 30… yeah, not so much.

Here’s what Kindergarten teachers *really* want our tots to know before starting school:

1) How to zip and unzip their own backpack.

2) How to unbutton and button their own pants.

3) How to completely and effectively wipe themselves after the potty (even when they go #2).

4) How to properly wipe/blow their nose with a tissue… and how to throw it away. (Bonus Tip: NO BOOGER EATING ALLOWED. Booger-eating is not self-expression or child experimentation… it’s our jobs to teach kids that it’s disgusting, unsanitary and disrespectful to do it. Period.)

5) How to wash (with soap!) and dry their hands… and put the paper towel into a trash can (instead of leaving it on the counter to dry before a teacher has to pick it up).

6) How to sit still and listen to a grown up speaking in front of them in short spurts (as much as a 5 year old is capable of, that is… and yes, they’re more capable than many of us adults give them credit for… we just need to work with them).

7) How to be a self-starting helper… ie: cleaning up their own projects, supplies, toys, pencils and not complain about it (and also not ignore the adult asking them to do so).

8) To NOT to climb up the playground slide when kids are at the top of the slide waiting to go down. (Apparently this drives lots of teachers nuts… IT’S A PLAYGROUND SAFETY ISSUE. I respect that. And also agree — drives me nuts too.)

9) To learn the teacher’s name and to know that part of being in school involves actually calling their teacher by that name… as opposed to yelling “Teacher! Teacher!” Kids know all the names of every single Disney princesses, Jake and the Neverland Pirate characters and My Little Pony songs… they are fully capable of learning teachers’ names. (Would you like it if teachers called your child by shouting “Student! Student!”)?

10) Kids must know their own last names. (Apparently there are a lot who don't.)

So yeah, counting and writing and sounding out letters are necessary and always appreciated, but turns out these unconventional to-do's help our teachers BIG TIME. I mean, they’ve all got enough issues to deal with with these days… which unfortunately often does take away from their ability to teach and our kids’ ability to learn.

Whether we admit it or not, teachers spend about as much time with our kids as we do… except they’ve got 20-30 to contend with at one time. Like herding cats. I challenge you to try that. (I couldn't do it…)

HELP. TEACHERS. OUT. So they can do their jobs and teach our kids. Because one kid can ruin it for the rest. (That’s my opinion on the record there…) If you need me, I’ll be running refresh tutorials about how to open snack bags, water bottles and applesauces in our kitchen.

Jill Simonian is a television/media host, parenting contributor & author of the it-book for first-time pregnant moms The FAB Mom's Guide: How to Get Over the Bump & Bounce Back Fast After Baby (Skyhorse, 2017).

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