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10 Things Every Parent Should Do With Their Kid Before They Start Kindergarten

Photograph by Twenty20

On the day that my oldest child started kindergarten, I sobbed in the classroom as I introduced myself to his teacher.

On the day that my second-oldest child start kindergarten, I wiped away tears as he marched confidently into the school.

On the day that my youngest child starts kindergarten—in five months and nine days (not that I’m, um, counting)—I don’t know exactly what my crying plans are.

What I do know is that I’ve made a list of 10 things I want to do with him before he starts kindergarten: 10 things to help me maintain perspective on just how precious these last few months are, and to help him understand that I do indeed think he is precious.

I don’t think this list is applicable only to my son and me, either. In fact, if one of your babies is starting kindergarten later this year, it’s never too late to start crossing some of these items off your list

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Go out for a lunch date—just the two of you

If you’re already at home with them, go somewhere special—or make a picnic for the park or even your living room floor. If you work outside the home, pick them up from the sitter or daycare and treat them to lunch. If you can only make it happen on the weekend, do it then. Just know that once school begins, it will rarely be this easy to take your child out for lunch in the middle of the day.

Read one more book than you promised

How many times have you said, “OK, only five books tonight?” Or, “This is the last book! No more!” I get it. I do the same with all of my children. Time is finite, and bedtime is awful. But every once in a while, give in to this one indulgence. One more book, or five more minutes of reading, is the best way to “spoil” a child.

Give yourself daily screen time breaks

That email really is important. That news really is pressing. And that photograph really is adorable. And they really all can wait, even if only for half an hour. Stash the phone away in a drawer or cabinet—leave the ringer on for emergencies, if you must—and be fully present with your child. In just a few more years, they’ll be barely present with you as they glue themselves to their own phones.

Childlike wonder is at its peak right around this stage. It doesn’t yet have to compete with cynicism or angst.

Stay up past bedtime to look at the stars

Childlike wonder is at its peak right around this stage. It doesn’t yet have to compete with cynicism or angst. It’s not inhibited by fears about test scores and grades. Why not unleash that wonder on the nighttime sky?

Visit a new playground

They’re free. They’re entertaining. And they’ll start to lose their magic (at least for your child) by the end of elementary school.

Practice the trip to school

If your child will take the bus, have them watch other school children board the bus at their bus stop. If you’ll drive them to school, make the trip a few times, and show them the door where they’ll enter the building. If your child will walk to school, practice the walk with them. These test trips might help to settle a few nerves—not just for your kid, but also for you!

Go to that museum or zoo that you still haven’t visited (or that you’ve visited 100 times already)

Answer all their questions. Ask them questions, too. Explore all the exhibits. See all the things. (But for real, you’re under no obligation to buy anything from the gift shop.)

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Practice kindness. Talk about it. Model it

The playground can be a nasty place. Help them develop a plan for how to respond to teasing or bullying, whether they’re the target or if they’re the one feeling pressured to join in.

Ask them about their hopes and dreams and fears

Children this age have a remarkable honesty. When you ask your child open-ended questions—What do you want to be when you grow up? What scares you the most? What make you the happiest?—that honesty can have a remarkable payoff. (And sometimes, it’s downright hilarious.) Don't forget to capture some of these gems on video, too.

Hold them like a baby in your arms, if they’ll still let you

Even if you’re counting down the five months and nine days until your baby starts kindergarten, this one might be guaranteed to make you shed a few tears.

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