This past summer, 4-year-old Peggy Hardy from Cornwall, England was all nerves about starting kindergarten. Just like many kids, she worried about all the newness that comes with leaving home and heading to school for the first time. After all, to a small kid, kindergarten can be an exciting but also kind of scary proposition. But something her teacher mailed home to her this summer was helping to soothe her worries — something called “Jitter Glitter.”
Jitter Glitter (which sometimes goes by different names) is a small packet of glitter that comes along with a short poem about being nervous before the first day of school. The idea is that a child holds on to the glitter or sprinkles it somewhere important, like a backpack or a bedtime pillow, to help them feel less scared about the big transition. While the concept has been around for a few years now, it seems to be really picking up steam this year, thanks to stories like Peggy’s, which went viral after her mom tweeted about it on September 1. (And if you fire up Pinterest, you’ll see there are dozens of iterations.)
Peggy’s mom, Jayne Hardy, knew her daughter was anxious. So she tried her best to prep her 4-year-old for school in small, but meaningful ways.
“We made sure we spoke about school throughout the holidays,” she tells Babble. “When we drove past, we would all wave, and we spoke about nerves, what they feel like and ways to cope with them.”
Jayne even gave Peggy an essential rollerball to help her with her “wobbles” during the day. But it wasn’t until teachers at Peggy’s school sent Jitter Glitter home in the mail that Hardy knew her daughter would be in good hands; and she certainly was.
“As someone who campaigns for mental health awareness, I felt incredibly reassured that Peggy was going to be in the care of someone who would be mindful of her emotional needs,” says Jayne.
I know what she means.
My own son Maxwell started kindergarten this year too, and just like Peggy, he was petrified about leaving home for the whole day. During Open House Night at his school — Leroy Smith Elementary School in Winterport, Maine — he was given a bag with a note from his kindergarten teacher. Its instructions were clear: “Do not open until the the night before school!”
When the night before school finally came, my son was beside himself with joy when he found a packet of “Ready Confetti” and a sweet poem inside that told him to sprinkle the confetti on his pillow and rest easy knowing that his teacher would too, because the next day they would have a marvelous adventure in kindergarten.
“The transition to kindergarten is very individual,” his teacher, Linda Kocik, tells Babble. “Some kids cry and have a great deal of trouble separating from parents, while other kids barely say goodbye and just skip off into school. As teachers, we comfort the kids (and their parents!) the best we can, knowing that once the kids get involved in all that we do each day, they will settle down and maybe even enjoy coming to school!”
Kocik shares that one of the toughest, and also most important, goals for teachers in those first days of school is find ways to connect with families. Since not all kids respond to stress the same way, not all kids will be in tears. Teachers need to be ready to deal with whatever emotional responses get expressed in the classroom, which means that Jitter Glitter (or Ready Confetti, as my son was given), offers an imaginative way to help little kids express emotions that can sometimes feel bigger than them.
“We know that the more connected and supportive families are of school, the better their children feel about coming each day,” says Kocik.
Hardy echoes this sentiment, telling Babble, “I think normalizing conversations surrounding not feeling okay and making room for communication rather than urging [kids] to pop on a brave face is incredibly important.”
Just like Peggy, my son Max came home with stories about how much he loved his first day. And while I will never know for sure just how much the Ready Confetti played a role in calming my child’s nerves on his first day, I can attest to how much it meant to me as a parent knowing that my child is with a kind and loving teacher who genuinely wants my kiddo to have a great experience. I’m pretty sure all parents would feel comforted by that one.