Preparing Kindergarteners for the First Day of School
The first day of school is always an important event, but it’s uniquely special for most Kindergarteners as they begin their education journey. Even kids that have attended preschool programs will need some preparation for the transition to Kindergarten. Understandably, you and your child may be as nervous as you are excited for this big day. Thankfully there are some simple and helpful strategies to prepare your Kindergartener (and yourself) for the first day of school.
Share Some Stories
Stories are a fun and effective way to help kids understand new and large concepts like the start of Kindergarten. There are some excellent children’s books that address this very subject, including the emotions and uncertainty that are commonly felt when facing the first day of school. Taking a trip to the library and checking out books on this topic will allow parents to read along with their almost-Kindergartener and relate to the characters in the story. This provides a secure and straightforward way to approach the subject of the first day of Kindergarten so that your child can ask questions and express any feelings they may have.
Another way to use stories in preparation for your Kindergartener’s first day is to share your own Kindergarten memories. Of course, it might be difficult to remember your experience in great detail since it’s been a while. However, anything you can share with your child will be appreciated. Perhaps you remember the name of your teacher and/or elementary school or some of the activities you did. Even scrounging up your Kindergarten picture or any artwork you created at that time will be meaningful to your child, knowing that you were once going through the same transition at their age.
A more innovative approach to sharing a story about Kindergarten would be for you and your child to write/illustrate a story about them on their first day. In a way, you can make this somewhat of a self-fulfilling prophecy by creating general scenes in which your child—the main character—arrives at school with a smile, listens patiently to the teacher, is respectful towards their classmates, and then ends the day by returning to lots of hugs at home.
Plan Ahead and Practice
Planning ahead and practicing some basic skills can go a long way in preparing your Kindergartener for their first day. Here are some ideas for planning ahead before the big event:
- Gather and/or shop for school supplies
- Talk about any questions your child has and/or any emotions they are feeling
- Decide on a first-day outfit and what to pack for lunch or snack
- Reinforce confidence in your child’s ability to learn
- Understand methods of transportation to and from school
- Note important school dates and information on a calendar
- Acknowledge all the ways your child is special
Here are some basic skills to practice before the first day of Kindergarten:
- Independently using the bathroom and washing up
- Writing first and last name
- Listening attentively and following instructions
- Basic social introduction (“Hi, my name is ______. What’s your name?”)
- Politely asking questions
- Basic table manners
- Morning routine (getting up on time, getting dressed, etc.)
Perhaps an unusual but productive skill to practice is saying a quick good-bye when getting on the bus or entering the classroom. Your child may seem thrilled about their first day of school until they get there and realize you won’t be staying with them. Practicing this “separation” will ensure that both you and your Kindergartener will know what to do. You can even make it fun by using a rhyming exchange such as “See you later, alligator! After a while, crocodile!” Or you can create a secret handshake/high-five routine, especially if your child might be resistant to hugs and/or kisses in public. No matter what you choose, ensure that your standard “good-bye” is brief, upbeat, and light-hearted. This will benefit you both—especially on the first day.
Be sure not to pressure your child to get everything “perfect” while they are practicing basic skills, as that can undermine their confidence. In addition, it’s important to focus on daily things that don’t involve Kindergarten so that they are not overwhelmed or fatigued by thinking about the impending first day.
Make a School Visit
Many schools offer Kindergarten orientation so that parents and students can visit the classroom and meet the teacher before school begins. If your child’s school does not offer orientation, or if you cannot attend, ask whether the administration is willing to allow a quick visit before the first day of school.
Consider as well that nearly all school webpages provide comprehensive information for parents about everything from the calendar to supply lists to inclement weather policy. This will allow you to simply enjoy the school visit rather than feel pressured to ask numerous questions. In fact, letting your child take the lead in exploring the classroom, meeting the teacher, talking to other students, etc., can be a boost to their confidence. If your child is more reluctant, you can gently lead them in examining their new environment.
Don’t Forget to Prepare Yourself as Parents
Entering Kindergarten is a big change for children, and it’s just as significant a change for parents. Therefore, it’s important to take time to prepare yourself for your child’s first day of school. This may involve scheduling work or other activities during the day to keep you occupied until school is out. You may also find support in connecting with other Kindergarten parents, in person or online, or by reading encouraging blogs. Ultimately, it’s important to enjoy some time for yourself, as you have surely earned it!
Though it may feel like a sad or difficult transition to see your little one go off to school, remember that each achievement and step towards independence allows them to become who they are meant to be. The more confidence, support, and love you show your Kindergartener, the greater their success will be as they continue to grow.
At Cognisprings, we support parents looking for educational toys and materials that will instill a lifelong desire to learn in children. We wish to inspire children to explore who they are through play, imagination, and critical thinking. That’s why we provide books, puzzles, games, and toys that are thoughtfully designed to promote creativity, natural curiosity, and experiential learning. In addition, Cognisprings prioritizes fun and educational activities for the entire family that are screen-free, support healthy cognitive development, and encourage personal growth so that your child is excited to begin their adventures in learning.