SIKESTON - Byron Miller's days will soon be filled with sorting red beads from the green and blue ones, sharing a vacation story during show and tell, learning to distinguish a "C" and an "H" and playing with classmates at recess.
Starting kindergarten marks an exciting time in a child's life, but it can also be a scary one. Before youngsters take that grown-up step, educators say there is plenty parents can do to get children - and themselves - ready for the big day.
Ginger Miller, a teacher herself, has been gearing her 6-year-old son up for the new adventure by talking with him about it. And soon, she said, they'll shop for school supplies and visit his room to meet the teacher before the first day.
Miller said it's important to prepare children for kindergarten for several reasons. "Children need to feel secure about new experiences," she explained. "They should begin school with happy and positive thoughts and feelings."
To alleviate any fears a child might have about going to kindergarten, Miller said reassurance is the answer. "Reassure him or her that everyone there is working hard to make learning fun so that he or she can grow up to do more things for himself and others."
Byron might be a little apprehensive about being away from home most of the day, but that doesn't seem to deter his enthusiasm for the opportunity to go to school like the older kids.
"I'm excited about making friends, using computers and the playground," he said.
And if he needs any tips on classroom etiquette Haley Thompson has a couple of suggestions. "Kindergarten was fine last year, I liked the recess," announced the soon-to-be first grader. "But you have to listen to the teacher and don't talk when she's talking or you get in trouble," she cautioned.
Although Lisa Thompson said the transition was smooth for her daughter, she did recommend a few activities to help children get off to a strong start when the first kindergarten bell rings in a few weeks.
"Have them interact with other kids," Thompson said. "And take them to kindergarten several times. Haley and I would drive by the building and just talk about it. But I didn't force her to do anything she didn't want to do because that causes them to do a 90-degree turn the opposite way. You just go at their pace and they'll slowly build up their confidence."
Vera Glueck, principal at Sikeston Kindergarten Center, urges parents to make certain their child's vaccinations are updated, develop a positive attitude about school and get plenty of rest.
The whole purpose of kindergarten, Miller said, is to prepare children socially and begin the base of knowledge that the rest of their education is built upon.
"This is quite a job description," Miller quipped. "Good kindergarten teachers rate high on my list of extremely important people, along with good parents."
Glueck said kindergarten has a lot to do with offering children encouragement and support. "The goal is to inspire young students with a love of learning and a curiosity about the world and to establish the basic skills needed to thrive: beginning reading skills, mathematical concepts, social skills and awareness, emotional maturity and responsibility, thinking and problem solving skills, to name a few."
Glueck and Miller agreed a parent's attitude has a big impact on whether not a child adjusts to the world of kindergarten.
"They need to be there everyday, talking to, praising, helping reinforce what teachers are doing in class," Miller said.