Can you believe it’s almost time for your child’s first day of kindergarten? This can be exciting and overwhelming for many parents and children. To help you prepare, we asked Start Early (formerly known as the Ounce) experts for their advice for parents. Educare, our model early learning program, focuses on helping children, over five years, develop the cognitive and social skills they need for kindergarten success.
By learning as much as you can about the kindergarten experience, you’ll be able to better explain the transition to your child and help him or her understand how fun kindergarten will be!
- Meet the Teacher Before the First Day of School
If you can, schedule a time for you and your child to meet your kindergarten teacher before the first day of school. This will give your child the chance to become comfortable with the teacher. You can also let the teacher know about your child’s preferences, temperament, strengths and weaknesses. For example, if your child had trouble with transitions in preschool, explain how you and the preschool teacher helped him or her overcome that challenge. The kindergarten teacher will appreciate your tips!
You can also talk about your aspirations for your child and what you hope your child will learn in the upcoming year. Ask how you can be involved in the classroom. Be sure to share your contact information and let the teacher know the best way to reach you.
- Set a Consistent Routine Before School Starts
A consistent morning and evening routine will help your child feel prepared for the first day of kindergarten. Young children benefit from routines because when they know what will happen next they are less prone to find changes stressful.
Set a bedtime to help your child get a good night’s rest. In the morning, leave enough time for getting dressed, eating breakfast and packing backpacks. Start your routine a few weeks before kindergarten so you know how long it will take to get ready.
- Do a Dry Run
A few days before the first day of school, do a dry run of your morning routine, including going to school. You can walk or drive to school, or walk to the bus stop with your child. Show your child the door he or she will walk in on the first day of school. Ask the school what the pick-up and drop-off policies are. Some schools allow parents to come into the classroom to drop their children off, and others have a different meeting point.
Not only will you find out exactly how long your morning routine takes, you’ll also give your child a better sense of what the day will look like to prevent first-day-of-school anxiety.
- Find Out What Skills the Teacher Expects Children to Have on Day One
Kindergarten teachers may expect children to be able to handle their emotions, articulate their needs, listen to directions, raise their hand before talking, write their name, and recognize shapes and colors on the first day of school. Find out what the expectations are in advance and ask for tips on how to prepare your child for any skills he or she is still working on. If your child has mastered those skills, ask the teacher what will be done to challenge your child in the classroom.
- Read to Your Child
Check out our list of recommended books for kindergarten students. Start reading books before school starts so that your child has a better idea of what going to school will be like.
- Be an Advocate
If your child needs any special services, talk to the administration and the classroom teachers in advance to find out who provides them. Ask if the services are provided inside or outside the kindergarten classroom. If your child has an individualized education plan from preschool, find out how that plan transfers over to kindergarten.
- Network With Other Parents
Talking with other parents is a great way to build a support system to help you through all the challenges of parenthood. Ask the school what supports are available for parents and what opportunities are provided for parents to meet, such as parent groups, school councils or other committees that you can join.
- Prepare for Breakfast and Lunch
Find out if your school provides breakfast and/or lunch and plan accordingly. Your child may be used to eating at certain times at home or at an early childhood center, so explain how mealtimes may be changing. If your child will be buying lunch, get a menu from the school. Find out how food preferences are honored. For instance, some schools ask for a doctor’s note for food allergies.
- Decrease Naptime
Some schools may offer a resting period, but many don’t. So it’s a good idea to wean children off naps before the first day of kindergarten.
- Make Afterschool Plans
If your child will be in after school care, make those arrangements as soon as possible. Find out what afterschool care options your school offers and how much it costs. Make sure your child knows what the plans are and that you pick up your child on time or early so he or she doesn’t get anxious waiting for you. Create a backup plan with other parents, who you can rely on to pick up your child if you are running late.