While this year's graduation may not be taking your little one much further than a new school down the block (thank goodness!), their achievements still deserve a celebration. Whether you're having a bash for the whole class, a graduation day playdate for a few friends, or just want to make family dinner extra special, here are nine fun ideas to celebrate your little grad. Oh, the places they'll go (one day)!
Here's another post from our friends at Circle of Moms! Every week, we bring you the best parenting and motherhood stories from our partners at Circle of Moms, including this post from Mo Cooper about the right time to start kindergarten.
Preparing for kindergarten can be overwhelming. While most children start at 5 years old, some public and private schools are enrolling children as young as 4. The decision about when to start kindergarten should depend not only on what is offered in your area, but on your child's abilities and maturity. Here are some questions to think about if you are considering "testing in" for early kindergarten admittance.
- Is Your Child Ready Academically?
Many parents who consider their child to be advanced academically prefer the early start route, and some schools, both private and public, will let them. Ashley F.'s school district allows 4-year-olds who will be turning 5 during the fall months to start kindergarten early. She signed her daughter up based on her academic readiness: "She knows her ABCs, 123s, Colors, Shapes, can write and spell her own name, mine, some other family member names, and a few other daily used words, and can read beginner books."
Jenny started her daughter in kindergarten early (at the age of 4) because she didn't want to underestimate their potential: It worked out fine for Jenny; her daughter excelled in kindergarten; she was reading "off the charts" by the time the year was over, "and was thrilled to be there."
But even if your child is familiar with letters, numbers, shapes, and colors at the age of 4, is she really ready to handle the rigorous curriculum of some kindergarten programs? Cassie C. advises waiting. In her school district, kindergarten is very structured: "Children are pushed very hard to read and write all day (even if they are not developmentally ready). The kindergarten curriculum has become very demanding on young children and can add a lot of undue stress and pressure to a 4-year-old or a newly 5-year-old."
(To find out where your child should be with reading, writing, and math in order to start kindergarten, this article can help: What Your Child Should Know by Kindergarten.)
- Is Your Child Mature Enough?
It's hard to predict how any child will handle a major change such as starting kindergarten. You might know your child's technical reading and math skill level, but the social and emotional challenges of kindergarten are hard to predict. This is especially true if your child will be the youngest, or one of the youngest in class. As Lindsay H. says: "Some kids thrive in kindergarten and some struggle but it's hard to know how they will handle it until they are actually in that setting."
Circle of Moms member and preschool teacher Karol D. offers some advice on behavioral skills that are helpful in kindergarten: "The things I try to work on with my class are ability to follow 2-part directions (get a toy and sit on the carpet), [and] being considerate of others' feelings (Jenny is upset because you wouldn't share with her, is that OK?). Lastly, I make certain my class can sit quietly to listen and not be disruptive." Does your child have the maturity to learn in a kindergarten environment?
Some parents advise considering the possibility that your young child could face bullying, even at the kindergarten level. Being younger or smaller than the rest of the kids at their grade level can put a child at extra risk of being targeted by a bully. As Jane H. says, "Size . . . is important. He'll be developmentally behind . . . so when puberty hits, he will be left behind. Tweenagers can be cruel. All food for thought."
Stumped on what to give your child's teacher as a present? To help solve this gift-giving dilemma we went straight to potential recipients of the gift: our Teacher Mom bloggers. Here we've rounded up ten of their suggestions for the best teacher gifts. (To read all the full responses, click here.)
1. Personal 'Thank You' Notes
"I can honestly say that as a first grade teacher, ten years and counting, my favorite holiday gift is a thank you card. There is nothing better than a parent taking the time to sit and write a card or letter expressing how much they appreciate my efforts. I keep them in a 'smile file' and pull them out on those rough teacher days!" —Mommy Reads
2. Gift Cards
"Gift cards and certificates for classroom supplies are also highly appreciated. Teachers often spend at craft stores for all levels of interactive hands-on learning. Office supply stores also supply needed classroom supplies such as pencils, colored pencils, markers, paper, folders, laminating products, etc." —Lisa Michalek of The Lesson Guide
"If you insist on purchasing us something, I would suggest gift cards. We tend to spend lots of money on our classroom, so if we can use a gift card to do that, it would be great. Some suggestions for a specific place? Coffee shops, Walmart, Target, or Staples are all places that teachers tend to become regulars!" —Krissy Miner of Mrs. Miner's Kindergarten Monkey Business
3. Handmade Ornaments
"My favorite gift I have ever gotten was an ornament that one of my students painted for me. I put it on my tree every year and it makes me smile." —Kreative in Kinder
"I love getting student-made ornaments (include the child's name and year). It is so fun to look back each year and remember the little lives you been a part of." —Deedee Wills of Mrs. Wills Kindergarten
4. Book or Bookstore Gift Certificates
"One of my favorite things to get from a student is a book. I always have the child write their name and date on the inside so I can always remember them." —Tickled Pink
"Teachers can NEVER have enough books. A gift card to Amazon is awesome. I like to write inside of the book, 'This book was purchased by_____' and I put the name of the student who made it possible." —Deedee Wills of Mrs. Wills Kindergarten
5. Family Dinner for a Busy Night
"Gift certificates for family meals (especially on those days where we have parent-teacher conferences, late supervision for extra events, etc.) can be a lifesaver!" —Darla Hutson and Tracy Hitchins of The Preschool Toolbox Blog
6. Class Gift
"One parent collects money from all the students and then buys one large American Express Gift Card from the class. If you have a Flip video recorder, go to your child's lunch and create a video Christmas card to give to the teacher. Have each child say [happy holidays] and why they are thankful for their teacher." —Colleen Gallagher of Teaching Heart Mom
7. Colored Sharpies
8. A Free Lunch
"Offer to bring me lunch in January-that is a crazy month!" —My Mommy Reads
9. Favorites Survey
"I was really jealous one year, because the teacher across the hall had a mom that sent her a Favorites Survey... AND THEN all year my teacher friend got all kinds of personal goodies off of her Favorites Survey!!!!" —Farley of Oh' Boy 4th Grade
10. Any Gift of Time
"Any gift of TIME can be a wonderful and unique present. Extra curriculum ideas, classroom music CD's, etc. all help reduce the amount of time spent 'out of the classroom' looking for new ideas and resources to use with our students." —Darla Hutson and Tracy Hitchins of The Preschool Toolbox Blog
Put on your cap and gown! Childhood milestones are meant to be celebrated and preschool and kindergarten graduations are no exception. Fifty-seven percent of LilSugar readers agree that lil ones' early school accomplishments are cause for a party. As school years come to a close, plan the perfect soiree for your lil graduate with these lil tips.
How far would you go to get your child into the "right" kindergarten? In some cities, the kindergarten application process is as involved as those for applying to college. There are applications to be filled out, interviews to ace, recommendations to gather and tests to take.
While some parents enroll their lil ones in kindergarten prep programs to tutor their tots into the top tier schools, others are taking the prep process a step further. In a recent expose on the kindergarten application process, New York Magazine found parents selling "bootleg" copies of the WPPSI, an intelligence test required for entry in many private schools, for $3,000 a piece. For parents willing to shell out $30,000 or more for a year of kindergarten, the tests may seem like a bargain, but for most families, the costs are prohibitive. In addition to costing a small fortune, I'm afraid that parents obtaining the under-the-table versions of the tests are teaching their lil ones that rules can be broken – for a price. Others may argue that if everyone else is doing it, they want to give their tyke an equal shot.
How far would you go to get your child into the school of your dreams?
The Princeton Review for 3-year-olds? It may sound a bit crazy but many parents are signing their tots up for prep programs to help their offspring gain admission into the top public and private elementary schools of their choice. That's right, elementary. Often the trendsetting city, New York has a handful of tutoring companies ">like Bright Kids NYC that will coach children in learning visual analogy, reasoning and other "gifted" talents. If their child scores well, their chances of getting into a public school "gifted" program are increased. Prices range between $90 - $145 a session, which may seem outrageous but when compared to a $20K kindergarten tuition at a private school, it's a bargain.
Quick to follow in New York's footsteps, many other cities are starting to see these types of businesses taking off. Many argue it creates an unfair playing field as some parents can't afford to partake in such programs. Others believe it's ludicrous to put that kind of pressure on such a young child. What's your take on such programs?
My 5-year-old twins are entering kindergarten next month and I was just contacted by their new school regarding their class placement. We kept the girls in the same class during nursery school and it worked well for them in terms of their learning, meeting new friends, and having each other to lean on. But as their pre-K year came to an end, their distinctive personalities came through. While one was outgoing, the other complained that her sister was leaving her out of activities. Do you think it would be best to separate them going forward?
– Twin Thoughts
To see the response from Mommy Dearest, read more
What preschooler doesn't want to shed the baby image of the harnessed cars seats and move to a backless booster like their friends use? Making the transition from five-point harness to a more mature one might be exciting for our mini me, but it's a bit nerve racking for us mamas. The makers of the Clek Olli booster seat have designed an exceptional model to eliminate parents' worries.
Unlike other backless booster seats on the market that just sit atop the seat cushion, the Clek utilizes the LATCH system by connecting the seat to the car, and therefore preventing it from moving during a collision. It works for kids 40 – 120 pounds and 40-57 inches tall. The plush padding and armrests make it comfortable for your tot and the interchangeable fabric covers come in everything from bubblegum camo to zebra to fit his personality. Even the $90 price is justified in knowing my small fries are secure!
Would you try an alternative program to help inspire your kids?
The kindergartner on your list may be a bit precocious at times, but he is still a baby in your eyes. Help him continue to explore the world around him with some gifts that are sure to get him asking questions.
Among our favorites for the five-year-old this year are:
- A Make My Own Monster Kit from FAO Schwarz. The kit includes colored pencils, paper, and a detailed questionnaire from which you actually design your monster. The design is then turned into a plush monster, complete with a tag that explains the scary guy's back story.
- Even though you cringe at the sight of a bug, your tot may love the creepy, crawly things. With the Talking Bug Identifier your little entomologist can ID the critter by answering a few simple yes and no questions.
- The Clementine Printmaking Kit comes with six all-natural paints, brushes, rollers, recycled paper and textured painting tools to help your budding artist create beautiful masterpieces.
- Create an indoor garden filled with beautiful butterflies with the Discovery Butterfly Canopy. The kit comes with a voucher used to order five painted lady caterpillars and the necessary food needed for the larvae to become flying beauties.
- The 170 pieces and 20 marbles included in the Deluxe Marble Run should keep your tot busy for hours. With ramps, bridges, a swivel track, spinners and a motorized conveyer, no two marble runs will be the same.
- Up your cool factor with your kids by introducing them to the Crayola Glow Station. Equipped with a light wand, a light-sensitive canvas, and cool stencils, they can design glow-in-the-dark creations like they've never seen before.