The first day of school prompts many emotions for both parents and kids—excitement, fear of the unknown, and the promise of endless possibility. However, the transition from preschool to kindergarten can also be challenging for your young child. This shift can feel quite different from the expectations and routine of preschool, so it’s important to ensure your child is as ready as possible for this change. Luckily, there are ways to help your student gain confidence and tackle those first-day jitters. Here are three tactics you can use to begin preparing your child for kindergarten.
1. Introduce her to her new routine.
Regardless of the type of preschool she attended (if applicable), the demands of kindergarten can be quite an adjustment. Even if your child was in full-day preschool, kindergarten carries a wide range of challenges that might feel overwhelming at first. She may encounter a higher student-to-teacher ratio, more structured learning activities that require a specific level of focus, and an increase in social interactions, both with peers and older students. Talk with her about these expectations, in an effort to help her feel at ease going into the first day.
Additionally, begin a new routine at home. The sooner she gets accustomed to what mornings and evenings will look like while in kindergarten, the smoother the transition will be. First, begin a structured morning routine a few weeks prior to school starting. This can include her waking up at the same time each morning, getting ready for the day, and sitting down for breakfast. At night, begin practicing a routine that can include picking out clothes for the next day, contributing to packing snacks and a lunch, and getting to sleep on time. The more this routine feels normal prior to the first day of school, the easier it may be to execute once the big day arrives.
It’s also key to ask her if there are any aspects of her new routine, both in and outside of school, that she has questions about. Ironing out any potential sources of anxiety before school starts can ease the transition for both of you.
2. Practice kindergarten readiness skills.
A great way to help your student feel prepared for kindergarten is to find ways to strengthen relevant skills prior to the first day of school. There are many activities you can do in your everyday life to improve his reading, math, fine motor, and social skills. Have your student assist you in counting how many fruits you need from the grocery store, identify letters of the alphabet on signs around town, and practice good manners, such as saying please and thank you. In addition, you can play I Spy to help him strengthen his vocabulary and color-recognition skills.
There are many skills your student will learn in the early months of kindergarten that you can begin working on at home. These may include using scissors, classifying objects in accordance with their size and shape, writing his full name, and identifying rhyming words. If he isn’t proficient in these skills before the first day of school, though, don’t stress. He will have plenty of time to practice once the school year begins.
Another skill that can be useful to know before kindergarten is how to follow two- and three-step instructions. These include prompts like “Collect your bag from the coatroom, and line up by the door.” He was likely taught this in preschool, but go over the concept with him to ensure he fully understands the importance of it. In addition to these skills, there may be other concepts you or his future teacher have identified to practice before the school year begins. Note these when planning first-day prep.
3. Take a tour of the school.
A large part of feeling prepared for this change is for your child to feel as confident as possible going into the first day. Schools often host orientations at the beginning of the year for students and families to explore the building, but don’t be afraid to call the school and to request an earlier tour. The more your child understands the layout of the school, such as what her classroom looks like, the more confident she will feel as the school year approaches. Before this visit, talk to her about what specific aspects of the school make her apprehensive, and use this opportunity to ease her mind.
The kindergarten transition can be challenging for both you and your child. The good news is there are steps you can take to send a confident and prepared student off on the first day of school.
Caitlin Grove is an Associate Content Coordinator for Varsity Tutors, a live learning platform that connects students with personalized instruction to accelerate academic achievement.