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The one thing you must do for your young student

How can you prepare your child for school? (AP)

Are you as nervous as some parents about the start of the school year? Is this the first time you’re sending your little one off into the great, big world without you? Any chance you’re wondering if you have done what you could to prepare them for this moment?

We look back on the best piece of advice we heard in the last year. I think it’s something we could all use now, and for years to come.

So what is the one thing every kindergarten teacher wishes parents would do for their new academically inclined (or disinclined, as the case may be) child?

The best thing any parent could do, said Kelly Haynes, who was a kindergarten teacher at Ashland Elementary School in Manassas at the time I asked in January, is to stop doing “everything!”

“Allow them to put on their own shoes and coat and learn how to fasten their pants,” is her advice. “Stop doing all of the things they can do, like pack their backpack and put their lunch box away.”

She’s got a point. It can become so easy to just do things for them (time constraints, anyone?) that many kids come to school ill-prepared. And that equates lots of lost time learning, playing and having fun. Not to mention the poor teacher.

“When they get to school the teacher is way outnumbered and cannot possibly check each backpack for a lunch or important papers,” Haynes said. “The students will be expected to follow simple step directions on where to hang the backpack or put the lunch box independently.”

The first time I volunteered at my rising second grader’s kindergarten class, I was amazed at the precision of the morning duties. Backpacks in one spot. Lunch boxes in another. Folders out, seats taken. One girl didn’t have her folder, and the teacher asked where it was. “My mom forgot to put it in my bag,” the girl said. “Oh really? Whose folder is it?” the teacher asked. She had the little ones working so independently that I learned a few parenting tricks just watching her. It made me realize that of course my son could do all of those things at home.

The best part of sending your new-school child off with a few life skills? “How proud are they going to be when they are confident with these much needed skills!” Haynes said.

You might also like:

8 ways to get your child ready for kindergarten

6 ways to get information out of your child after school

She’s about to leave for kindergarten. I’m not sure how to cope.

6 things every parent must stop doing right now

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