I had only taken one step inside the front door of the school and I knew something special was going on. The balloons and a packed parking lot were clues but there was something more obvious. The noise! The sound of children squealing filled the front foyer. The gym doors soon opened and the kids rushed in. They were greeted by the smell of playdough and bright crayons that begged to be touched. This Welcome to Kindergarten event was just getting underway and I could already see the children were on fire. Everyone sat down for a brief introduction. Suggestions were made for how to get children ready for the fall. Some people were taking notes while others gazed around the room absorbing the atmosphere of their child's new school. Then the principal gave a few details about the Welcome to Kindergarten program and this amazing bag they would all receive full of new books, letters, notepads and so much more. The buzz in the room went up a notch and then it was time to move. There were 3 centres in the gym and two more in the kindergarten classrooms across the hall. Everyone's name tag had a coloured dot on it. The blue dots started at the playdough table. While the children explored parents were reminded that playdough is wonderful for strengthening fine motor skills.
I spied one mom helping her daughter make the number two with her blue orange playdough. Each Welcome to Kindergarten bag had a ball of playdough and a recipe to make it at home. The letter table was a busy spot with magnetic boards everywhere. Parents were told how important letter recognition is for kindergarten. Going on a treasure hunt for the first letter of a child's name was a great idea. Across the hall, the teacher/ librarian was talking about the importance of reading to your child. Everyone had a sneak peek into the routine at the library and the book bags they would be receiving in the fall.
They also looked at some online book sites and other great literacy tools. Bean bag chairs had been set up and there was time for a quick snuggle and story. Back in the gym, scraps of paper were quickly piling up as the future students worked hard with scissors at the cutting table. A few youngsters had never used scissors before. The teachers assured parents they were perfectly safe and the ability to cut and paste was an important skill for kindergarten. After everyone had an opportunity to visit all the centres, it was time to hand out the Welcome to Kindergarten bags. The energy in the room jumped. One boy took out every single item and lined them up on a desk. There were three books with wonderful stories that focus on things like number sense. There were crayons, paper, letters and numbers, playdough, a scrapbook, notepads, scissors - all brand new and ready to be played with. The bag also contained a message sheet for parents.
Among other things, it encouraged parents to use all the resources in the bag together. And of course, a reminder that you are your child's first and best teacher. I watched as kids walked out of their new school with their The Learning Partnership Welcome to Kindergarten bag slung over their shoulders. Some had given it to their parents to carry but some were still holding onto their playdough or one of their new books. There's no doubt, it's a special bag full of potential ready to ignite a young person's love of learning.
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