Kindergarten is a major transition for all children, and it’s also a big change for parents, too. It marks the start of a more structured routine, which will be an adjustment for most kids. While some kids are already used to going to daycare full-time, for those who aren't, this will be the first time they’ll be away from mom and dad on a consistent basis.
Parents may wonder and worry how their kids will adjust to such a big change. Will they cry on the first day, will they like their teacher, will they make friends? To help make this transition easier, here are ten ways to help prepare your child for kindergarten.
10 GET THEM EMOTIONALLY READY
The first step in preparing your child for school is to get them emotionally ready. At least a few months before September, start talking to them about their feelings about starting kindergarten. If they seem hesitant or scared, try to pinpoint what it is that’s making them nervous. They may be unsure of what to expect, so talk with them about how the first day will likely unfold.
Most schools hold an information session in the spring where kids and parents can come see the classroom and meet the teacher. This is a great opportunity for you and your child to get an idea of what to expect, and hopefully it will spark some excitement in your child.
9 PRACTICE THE MORNING ROUTINE
Mornings can be chaotic for most families, and when you have a child starting kindergarten, your routine will likely need to be adjusted. Make the first day a smooth one by figuring out all the logistics well beforehand. Decide on a time your child will need to wake up, and start getting them up at that time for about a week before they start school so they’re used to it. Make sure they’ll have enough time to get dressed and have breakfast!
If you’re walking your child to school, time how long it takes to walk there, and decide on what time you’ll need to leave. If your child will be taking a school bus, make sure you know where the bus stop is and when they're expected to be there.
8 PLAN IN ADVANCE
You probably want to have as smooth of a morning as possible on your child’s first day (and ideally all subsequent days!). Try to do as much as you can in advance, so that in the morning there's less to do and less decisions to be made by you and your child.
The night before, have them pick out which clothes they want to wear and make your child's lunch. Make sure their backpack is set up and ready to go with any supplies they need. By doing everything you can in advance, you and your child will hopefully have a calmer, happier morning.
7 MAKE SLEEP A PRIORITY
For all kids, sleep is incredibly important. When they’re starting school, it’s even more crucial for them to get a good night’s rest. You may notice your child is extra tired for the first month or so after they start school. Adjusting to their new routine, being expected to listen to their teacher and behave all day, and learning new things can all tire out your little one.
Make sure you set a reasonable bedtime and be firm about it. Every child is different with regards to how much sleep they need, but the American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends children 3-5 years get 10-12 hours of sleep per night.
6 FUEL YOUR CHILD PROPERLY
If your child will be having lunch at school, you may be wondering what you should pack for them. Make sure you provide healthy options that they will actually eat, and don’t forget to include some fruit and veggies. Having a healthy lunch and snacks will give them energy and help fuel them for the day.
A lot of schools don’t allow peanut or nut products or even certain junk food items, so make sure you adhere to your school’s rules. Kids are often ravenous after a day at school, so make sure you provide them with lots of healthy snacks and a nutritious, well-balanced dinner.
5 GET THE RIGHT GEAR
There are likely a lot of new items you’ll need to buy for your child’s first day of school, and it can be overwhelming trying to decide what they’ll really need and use. A lot of schools provide parents with a list of items children will need, so try to stick to that. It depends on the school, but they’ll probably need a backpack, lunch box (if they eat lunch at school), water bottle, and indoor shoes.
Involve your child in the decision making by taking them shopping with you and letting them pick out their own lunchbox and backpack. Having items they’re excited about using will help them look forward to going to school.
4 PROMOTE THEIR INDEPENDENCE
Another way to help your child adjust to kindergarten life is to help them become more independent in their daily tasks. At school, they will be expected to do most things for themselves, so make sure your child knows how to put on and take off their own shoes and jacket, use zippers, and use the bathroom independently.
Encourage your child to clean up after themselves, and to take care of and keep track of their own things. If you’ll be putting food storage containers in your child’s lunchbox, make sure they know how to open them.
3 GIVE THEM SOME DOWNTIME
You may notice, after your child’s day at school, they won’t want to talk about their day or they’re acting particularly rambunctious. This is probably because after a long day at school where they’re expected to behave and pay attention, they’re craving some time to just relax, play, and be silly.
Give them a chance to unwind, and don’t worry if they don’t want to talk about their day at first. Once they’ve had time to relax, they’ll likely open up and give you all the details.
2 MAKE THE SEPARATION EASIER
If your child hasn’t been going to daycare and this is their first time being away from you, they may be anxious to be spending so much time away from mom and dad. Help to ease this transition by giving them some experiences away from you so they can get used to the idea.
Schedule a weekend for them at their grandparent’s or cousin's house, enrol them part-time in a local nursery school for the summer, or check out some local summer camps.
1 CELEBRATE THE MOMENT
The first day of kindergarten is often an emotional day, for kids and parents alike. It is the start of a new chapter, and a sign that a child is growing up. It’s often a mix of emotions for parents – sadness, that their baby is no longer a baby, and pride, in recognizing how much they've grown and developed.
It’s natural for parents to want to document this moment in order to remember it for years to come. It’s a great idea to start a tradition of taking a “first day of school picture,” so make sure you have your camera ready!