Transitioning into kindergarten can be challenging for children. Children benefit greatly from home support as they enter this new phase of their education. The time and energy you spend helping your child’s first impression to be a positive one is time and energy well spent. Here are a few suggestions that will help make a smooth transition:
- Visit the new classroom in advance, if possible. If your child will be in a new school, tour the school, the classroom, playground and other school areas. Introduce your child to the teacher and administrators. If an advance tour is not possible, use a children’s book and photos to help your child get a feel for the school environment.
- Remember that you are setting the tone for how your child views this experience. Discuss how excited you were when you attended your first day of school. If older siblings have had positive experiences, involve them in the discussion.
- If your child has not been in a full-day preschool program, lunch will be a whole new experience. Visit the school with your child and have lunch during the spring semester with an older friend or sibling.
- Read The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn a few days before school starts and again the night before the big day. As an extension of this book, put a kiss on an index card and send it to school with your child.
- Read other stories about kindergarten. Look Out Kindergarten, Here I Come! by Nancy Carlson, The Night Before Kindergarten by Natasha Wing and Julie Durrell, and Mrs. Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten by Joseph Slate and Ashley Wolff are great “getting ready” books.
- It is important to understand what your child’s fears are if he or she is experiencing concerns. So ask and listen carefully. Acknowledge concerns that your child expresses as opposed to making light of them. For example, you might say, “Sounds like you are worried about not knowing what to expect,” as opposed to “There is nothing to worry about.” If your child is anxious, discuss the positive experiences to come: making friends, getting to ride the bus, learning new things and so on.
- Make sure your child knows when he or she will be picked up. Help your child understand when that time will be by relating it to events instead of the clock. For example, say, “I’ll pick you up right after story time.”
- Attend parent orientation sessions.
- Set up an interview with the teacher in advance, and communicate your child’s interests and strengths. If you can’t do this face-to-face, send a letter instead.
- Check your child’s book bag daily for school communications. During the first couple of weeks, teachers often send messages home letting you know how your child is adjusting. Set up an email communication system with your child’s teacher so you can stay abreast of your child’s progress.
- Involve your child in buying school supplies. Convey how much you enjoyed this experience as a child. A new lunch box or book bag is an especially exciting purchase
- During the month preceding your child’s entry into kindergarten, begin routines that will work during the school year. Children need a full eight to nine hours of sleep in order to function at their highest capacity. They need plenty of protein in their diets. Paying attention to bedtimes and diet prior to school starting will make a big difference for your child.
- If your child has not had experience being around other children, set up some playdates with neighbors or family friends. A big part of the kindergarten experience requires that children know how to relate to others.
- When the big day arrives, allow your child to help pick out what he or she will wear. Lay out clothing the night before.
- Finally, make sure that you’re emotionally prepared; it won’t be easy to walk away if your child is crying, but staying will only make the situation more difficult. Simply say goodbye and remind your child that you’ll see him or her soon.
Dr. Schiller is a respected curriculum specialist and freelance author and speaker. Pam has served as head of the Early Childhood Department at the University of Houston. She is the author of six curriculums, 18 children’s books, more than 30 teacher and parent resource books, and a number of other creative projects such as activity books, DVDs and CDs. Read more from Pam on our blog.