Starting Kindergarten – some helpful advice

Dear WOT readers,

Just last week my older son got his notification for starting Kindergarten next summer. It’s a big step for the whole family and I can’t believe how grown up my little boy already is. For all of you in the same situation I’d like to tell you a bit about what Kindergarten in Switzerland is all about.

The main aim of Kindergarten is to prepare the children for school. Therefore it supports their mental, physical and psychological development, it fosters good behavior and facilitates knowledge and skills. Kindergarten became part of the obligatory school time in 2008. Before it wasn’t mandatory.

In Kindergarten children learn a lot of different things, but not in an academic sense. They learn mainly by playing, which is appropriate to their age. By using all their senses and emotions the children learn best and the teacher will make use of their creativity and imagination. There will be different art and crafts projects, nature watching activities, instructions that they need to follow or singing and storytelling while sitting in a circle.

A big part of Kindergarten is also “free play”, where the children can choose from a range of activities. The teacher will encourage the children in a way that suits their skills and aptitudes. The children can do role-play or experiments, there are puzzles and board games or they can do a crafts projects. During this time they learn to work out a difference of opinion with other kids or how to help each other. Or they can practice their fine motoric skills. Some of the playtime does also take place outside where the children can practice their rough motor skills. If a child is interested, they can also play with numbers and letters.

How can you, as a parent, support your child in this step? It’s not easy letting your “baby” go, but we all know the time has to come eventually. It’s easier to let them go, when you know that they are ready. So you can train with them things like dressing themselves and going to the toilet by themselves. Maybe you can also walk to their Kindergarten beforehand a few times and show them how to handle the critical points, so that after a while your child can walk to Kindergarten by themselves with their friends. When they can do all this by themselves we will all feel prepared for the big step.

I know what Jonah and I will be practicing in the next half a year, as putting the shoes on the right foot and closing zips are tricky things.