Ready or Not: Getting Set for Kindergarten

August 3, 2023

The first day of kindergarten is approaching. As the day draws nearer, you may wonder how to ready your little learner for this big day. Do academics hold the key? Or are life skills the secret to a successful transition?

The first day of Kindergarten. It’s an exciting time, but it comes with a lot of changes (new morning routines, new school environment, drop-off and pick-up, and more), which can be intimidating for both you and your little one.

Preparing for this big step well in advance is important. Lots of parents focus on developing academic skills in the lead-up to kindergarten. But the skills that are really important for kindergarten are life skills. Self-regulation, following instructions, social interactions, and taking responsibility for themselves and their belongings. The ABCs and 123s will come! 

In the year before kindergarten

Help your child develop independence at home. Encourage them to dress without your help, use the bathroom alone, and wash their hands. Let your child serve themself or clear their own dishes from the table. This will help them begin to develop the ability to do things separately from you. You’ll see their self-confidence grow with their independence.

Set up playdates with other kids. And if this includes future classmates, even better! Knowing how to play and get along with others is a big part of entering school. Having a friend in the classroom will also help your child feel more comfortable from the outset.

Focus on self-help skills. Your kiddo should know how to blow their nose, zip up their jacket, or open and close their lunch containers. They should also know how (and be comfortable) to ask an adult for help if necessary. 

Encourage your child to stick with activities for longer periods of time. This helps build self-regulation skills - the ability to monitor and control their emotions and behaviour. Other ways to encourage self-regulation skills are things like taking turns (try using a kitchen timer to help siblings take turns), waiting, and breathing through or venting big emotions (deep breaths, roar like a lion, give yourself a big hug).1

Let your child explore the world. Take your little sidekick with you to the coffee shop, the grocery store, the park, and other outings to help them feel more secure in new places. 

Read together. Read aloud. Take your little one to the library to pick out books. Let them grow their language skills, explore the world, and use their imagination through stories.

Practice writing their first name. Teach them their address and phone number. Practice it. Then practice it again.

Develop bedtime and morning routines over the summer before school. Going to bed and getting up around the same time every day, getting dressed, and having breakfast together will help as they transition to the school day. 

Visit your child’s school. Find their classroom. Meet their future kindergarten teacher. Find the bathroom. Being in the school environment and knowing things like where the bathroom is will help build your child’s confidence.

A few weeks before school starts

Encourage your child to share how they are feeling. Acknowledge their feelings, and talk about any fears or questions they have about kindergarten. They may express being nervous, not wanting to go, or maybe feeling happy and excited. Take time to acknowledge where they are. 

Find books about kindergarten. Read and talk about them together. Talk about your own experiences in kindergarten, and friends you made or activities you enjoyed. 

Share your feelings. Talk about things that make you a little nervous, and then share how you take care of yourself when you feel that way.

Make a plan for the first day of school. Talk about what will happen. Make sure they know how to ask for help from the teacher if they need it. 

The first day of school!

Spend time at the school on the first day. Let your little one know when you will leave and what time you will be back. Your child needs to know when you will return. Don’t sneak away.

At the end of the day, give them a big hug and say you missed them. Make sure you have some time together without any other distractions to talk about their first day.

And to the parents, as you prepare to leave the school on that first day of kindergarten, full of mixed emotions. You’re doing a great job! Don’t forget to take care of yourself while you’re taking care of your kiddos.

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  1. ASQ®:SE-2 Learning Activities & More, Twombly, Munson, & Pribble.

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