Friendship:  The Enduring Legacy of Kindergarten

By Anthony Kovatch, M.D., Pediatric Alliance — Arcadia



Full disclosure on the first day!


(Musical accompaniment:“That’s What Friends Are For”)


Over the past two weeks I have become keenly aware of an evolving sociologic phenomenon:  Celebrating the first day of school as if it were your birthday. This practice involves public posting of a schoolchild’s age, rank (grade) and serial number (home room teacher) — displayed proudly on a hand-held sign or placard. These endearing pictures dominate Facebook pages for days afterwards!

While most of the announcements simply highlight the student’s name and new grade status, some can be quite elaborate, including the child’s favorite subject, sports teams, and even aspirations for the future (which will no doubt be tracked through the years). I suspect that the cumulative grade point average may be included in the future, especially if it is flattering to the student and the parents.







Similarly, I have witnessed civic celebrations of rekindled friendship to launch a successful new academic campaign. I feel that it is altogether fitting and proper that we do so. The pendulum has swung. The last day of school is intrinsically joyful; however, we all remember without fondness the angst dominating our psyche on that sober day which cruelly and abruptly terminated our summer vacation bliss. Easing the transition from the carefree “dog days of summer” to those of reignited pressure and toil:  THAT’S WHAT FRIENDS ARE FOR!

The prototype of all transitions — kindergarten — has a historic voice in author/ preacher Robert Fulghum; three years ago we detailed the provisions of his iconic treatise, “Everything I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.” But education is highly progressive, and it might be proper to update (about thirty years later) that “everything we really need to know we learn in preschool.” 

As Mister Rogers taught:  The environment surrounding us will change, but the internal workings of the child remain constant. I think that all of Fulghum’s assertions can be distilled into one concept:  The “heart and soul” of what we incorporate into our lives in kindergarten is FRIENDSHIP, and its natural spin off, KINDNESS. 

Here is the core of Fulghum’s message, posted on The PediaBlog three years ago (Mind On The Run: “Learning Kindergarten”):


“All I really need to know about how to live and what to do and how to be I learned in kindergarten. Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate school mountain, but there in the sand pile at school.

These are the things I learned:

• Share everything.

• Play fair.

• Don’t hit people.

• Put things back where you found them.

• Clean up your own mess.

• Don’t take things that aren’t yours.

• Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.

• Wash your hands before you eat.

• Flush.

• Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.

• Live a balanced life – learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.

• Take a nap every afternoon.

• When you go out in the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together.

• Be aware of wonder. Remember the little seed in the Styrofoam cup: the roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.

• Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup – they all die. So do we.

• And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first word you learned – the biggest word of all – LOOK.”


I think everyone’s favorite is the afternoon nap. Although quite unrealistic, how about a five minute meditation focusing on the exchanges of kindness of the morning? Or all the good we overlook every day in our weary world. Or a little prayer for kindergartners in the world entire — may kindness and compassion be their guiding light.


I contend that kindergarten is indeed the right venue for the creation of friendships — I cannot imagine where it is likely to be easier and more sustainable!


Siblings and BFFs are equally inseparable!


Long, long afterward, in an oak

I found the arrow, still unbroken

And the song, from beginning to end,

I found again in the heart of a friend.”

— from “The Arrow and the Song” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.


This story was told in pictures — my thanks to all the smiling faces who agreed to be a part of it!

BFFs on Day 1!


Four years later:  “All I Really Need to Know I Learn in Preschool”!