Wondering what your child needs to know for kindergarten? Discover the 15 practical kindergarten prep tips that will help your child adjust to a new school.
In a few days, my son will head to transitional kindergarten. He’ll face new friends, new teachers, a new schedule and a new campus. The experience is a bit daunting—for both parent and child.
Kindergarten prep: 15 practical ways to prepare
We can do plenty to prepare for kindergarten. We can change our daily habits to mimic what to expect and show that kindergarten can be an exciting and seamless transition. These tips apply to both those who’ve been in preschool and those who haven’t.
1. Tour the campus
When our son was entering preschool, I brought him for a meet and greet with his new teacher and classmates. Several weeks later, my husband took him for a one-day orientation. They spent time with the other kids in the class while my husband sat nearby.
With kindergarten, we don’t get to ease in as slowly. The first day of class will be the first time he’ll meet his new teachers and classmates. The most we were able to do was to take a quick tour of the campus so he’s somewhat familiar with the premises.
2. Sleep (and wake up) early
A few weeks before school starts, your child should sleep at a decent hour. I would recommend no later than 8:30pm. That should be enough time to sleep through the night and early enough to feel refreshed in the morning.
You might have to adjust depending on when you plan to leave the house. Wake your child at least an hour or an hour and a half before you leave. This should give her enough time to wake up and squeeze in some play or downtime before leaving for school.
3. Practice putting on their own clothes
Still helping your kiddo pull his legs through his pants? Help him become more self-sufficient. Kindergarteners are more independent than preschoolers. They need to learn how to put most of their own clothing on.
Show your child where the tag is on each pair of pants or shorts and explain that that goes in the back. Show her how to pull her shirt down over her head, and how to slip her arms through sweaters and jackets.
4. Start your mornings with good breakfasts
My kids’ weekday go-to breakfast is oatmeal: Simple, quick, inexpensive. We add milk, sugar and sometimes raisins to taste it up. Then we pair it with a fruit.
Point is: Each morning should start with a healthy breakfast. They’ll feel less sluggish during the day and will be able to better stave off hunger.
5. Discuss lunch and snack logistics
What are the school’s lunch time options? Do they provide meals in the cafeteria? Will your child be bringing her own lunch and snacks?
We plan to send our son off with his own lunch and snacks, even if the cafeteria is serving food, at least for now.
6. Discuss after school logistics
Discuss what will happen after school. Who will pick him up, what time, where? Will he be going to an after school program? Where is that located?
7. Read every day
I can’t say enough about the benefits of reading. Read together, and say words to your child. Have her sound out the words. And get her excited about story time and learning. Borrow books from the library so she can cycle through stories every week (we do four new books every week).
And read books specifically about kindergarten. The stories will help her get excited for school and ease any trepidation.
8. Practice using safe scissors
If your child hasn’t been practicing cutting paper, now is the time to start trying. Buy safe scissors, along with sturdy cardstock. He can cut straight lines, paper, and other odd shapes. Again, make it fun—glue the pieces he cuts onto another piece of paper or poster.
9. Practice the alphabet and numbers
Sing or play the ABC song. Your child should know the order of the alphabet. Count up to the number 12 (that’s the number my son’s school suggested to us parents as a starting point).
10. Give responsibilities and chores
Kindergarten teachers will assign simple tasks to the students. They may wipe the board or put toys and mats away. Start your child on general chores around the house. She can clean toys and put dirty clothes in the hamper.
If your child seems keen or able to do any task, assign it to him. The tasks will take longer (15 minutes to wipe down the table?!). But you’re helping to build self-sufficiency skills and community-minded mentality in your child.
One fantastic way to keep track of your child’s chores is through writing it down. Download my Printable Chore List templates to help you and your kids organize chores!
11. Remind your child to be kind
Your child will meet many new faces. Some nice, others not. Some might show familiar and common traits, while others will feel like a culture shock.
Regardless, remind your child to be kind. Explain that it’s fine to disagree, to feel hurt, and even to feel frustrated, but we can’t be mean. Teach her coping methods like telling someone ‘Stop’ or even walking away.
And as always, teach empathy: Mention other people’s emotions and how it relates to hers. Remind her to put herself in other people’s shoes and wonder what they must feel like. And say how her actions can affect others around her.
12. Encourage social skills
Turn-taking, listening, following the rules. These are all important social skills in kindergarten and beyond.
If he has siblings, cousins or play mates, guide him through proper social conducts. Don’t force kids to share, but encourage turn-taking and playing together as an alternative. Enforce good listening, so that if someone is talking, he has to wait his turn before speaking. And acknowledge him when he follows rules and instructions.
13. Arrive on time
This should be a rule for every day, but at least on the first few days of kindergarten, arrive on time. If you’re like me, even you may be unfamiliar with your child’s new kindergarten campus. Give yourself plenty of time to find parking, find and meet his teachers, and get him settled into class.
14. Leave cheerfully
But when you leave, do so on time, and without drama. Your child needs to know he’s in safe hands, not in an environment where you’re bawling your eyes out. In leaving swiftly but cheerfully, you reassure him all is fine and you’re happy he’s here in class.
15. Embrace this exciting new change in your child’s life
Your child will take his cues from you. When you worry, he’ll worry. But when he sees you excited for him, then he’ll enter kindergarten with a positive mentality.
It’ll be scary, no doubt. He’ll have no idea where the bathrooms are, or when lunch time will be. He won’t know if the teacher is kind or if the other students will play with him.
But with your support, he’ll come better prepared to enter this new and exciting change. There may be some tough days (“I don’t want to go to school anymore”). But your child will remember kindergarten and thrive in its environment.
So, I’m already sad. As of this writing, this will be the last week my son will attend preschool. No more walking to or from school (his new one isn’t as near). Goodbye to his teachers, and the easy parking, and their weekly school work sent home.
The little things that make up the preschool experience for both him and his parents. Because isn’t this yet another passage of time? Something else you can’t retrieve and go back to?
I don’t show any of this to my son, though. To him, we are plugging on, excited for his new changes. No matter how mind boggling seeing this almost five-year-old standing there. (Wasn’t he just three a second ago?)
Yep—he’s getting ready for kindergarten.
Get more tips about getting ready for school:
- What Every Kindergartener Should Know by the End of the Year
- 12 Children’s Books about Kindergarten
- How to Deal when Your Child Cries at Drop Off
- The Best Children’s Books That Introduce Kids to Math Concepts
Tell me in the comments: What are your best tips for kindergarten prep? What were the biggest challenges (for instance, making new friends, adapting to a new curriculum)?