We often talk about ways that parents can help kids get ready for school, but they aren’t the only family members who can lend a hand to new kindergartners. Older siblings can also help their younger siblings to get ready for school. This can be super effective because younger kids often look up to their older siblings (or cousins, or neighbors) and they want to be like them. So, if an older brother or sister is helping a little brother or sister with reading, that younger sibling might decide that reading is really cool.
Pitching in to get younger kids ready for school is good for the older kid, too. They get to feel proud of themselves for helping and being a positive role model. (And it’s a sneaky way to get them to practice their own skills over the summer.)
Before we talk about some of the specific ways that older siblings can help their brothers and sisters get ready for school, we want to say a word about sibling dynamics. We know that sometimes older siblings can be…well…bossy. And that could make a younger sibling feel not so good about learning from their older sibling. Talk to your older child about how they will need to be patient and positive. Ask your older child to think about a teacher who made them feel supported and good about themselves. What did that teacher do? How will they do the same things with their younger sibling? This will set everyone up to have a positive and productive time!
There are lots of ways that older siblings can help their younger siblings get ready for school. Here are a few suggestions:
- Share books with and read to younger siblings. Kids love it when older kids read to them. If the older child doesn’t want to read to their sibling, they can share the book, looking at pictures and talking about what they see. Both sharing the book and reading it help the younger children to build vocabulary and learn to like books. They also get to find out about all the different things in stories, from tiny bugs to outer space.
- Play games. Kids love to play and it can be even more fun when their older sibling joins in the game. Playing games helps younger kids learn all sorts of things, like how to take turns, how to remember and follow rules, and how to handle disappoint if they don’t win or how to be a good winner. There are also games that hep children practice specific skills, like counting or recognizing colors. Here it may be important to remind competitive older siblings that even though they COULD win every time, they need to let their younger siblings experience success sometimes.
- Give advice about school. Older kids who have already been to school can help to advise their younger children about what to expect and to do. Hearing from an older kid can help younger kids to feel less anxious about starting school. It can also help to know that other kids were anxious or had hard experiences and survived. And it can boost the older sibling’s self-esteem to realize just how many school skills they have.
- Let younger children help. Younger siblings love to be included and to help their older siblings. When older siblings let their younger sibling help out with things like chores or projects, this builds the younger child’s confidence and can prepare them for trying new things at school. This can be as simple as letting the younger child hold a tool or help push a vacuum cleaner. Or an older kid can just include their younger sibling participate in the same activities, like riding bikes together. Again, this may mean that the older kid has to show some patience, which is a good skill to practice.
These are just a few suggestions about how older kids can help younger kids prepare for school. As a parent, you can help the process by giving both kids lots of praise for helping and getting along. It will benefit both kids and let everyone feel proud of themselves.