Kindergarten is a big change kids will face. Learn 12 ways to prepare your child for kindergarten that will help her adjust to a new school.
Even if your child had been going to preschool, transitioning to kindergarten can still feel nerve-wrecking.
She’ll meet new friends and teachers she’d never seen before. The school will have a different schedule than what she’d been used to. And the campus itself—already so big compared to preschool—can feel intimidating.
No wonder preparing for kindergarten can feel daunting—for both parent and child.
12 ways to prepare your child for kindergarten
Despite the years my kids had spent in preschool, kindergarten felt like a whole new world. They’d attend morning assembly with 500+ other students—all of them older. They’ll hear school bells announcing recess and lunch. I worried how they’d fare on the playground, with many more kids to contend with.
Thankfully, you can do plenty at home to prepare your child for kindergarten.
You can change your daily habits to mimic what to expect, and show her that kindergarten can be an exciting and seamless change. Take a look at what you can do right at home, whether she’s been in preschool or not:
1. Give your child chores
Your child’s kindergarten teacher will assign simple tasks to the students, like putting mats away or turning on the lights. Start your child on general chores around the house, from picking up toys and putting clothes in the hamper.
If she seems keen or able to do any task, assign it to her. The tasks will take longer than if you were to do them (15 minutes to wipe down the table?!). But you’re nurturing self-sufficiency skills and promoting a community-minded mentality.
Free printables: One fantastic way to track her chores is through writing it down. Join my newsletter and grab your Printable Chore List templates to help the both of you organize chores!
2. Get familiar with the school
Few schools will allow students to tour the campus the way you might a preschool. In fact, the first time she’ll meet her kindergarten teacher will likely be on the first day of school. How can you help her get familiar with the school, even during the summer?
- Walk around the building. You might spot the playground, the school garden, or the restrooms
- Attend back-to-school night. Many schools will open their classrooms for a meet and greet with the teachers before the first day of school. That way, she’ll get to see her classroom and meet her teacher ahead of time.
- Find her teacher’s photo on the school’s website. Many schools will show photos of the teachers and even offer a brief bio. Once you know the class she’s assigned to, you can find her teacher on the website.
3. Read every day
I can’t say enough about the benefits of reading. Read together, both with you reading aloud and encouraging her to sound words as well. Get her excited about story time and learning, and borrow books from the library so she can cycle through stories every week.
Read books about kindergarten—the stories will help her get excited for school and ease her fears.
Sing or play the ABC song so she knows the order of the alphabet. And count up to the number 12 (that’s the number my son’s school suggested that kindergartens should know before school starts).
4. Practice using safe scissors
If your child hasn’t been practicing cutting paper, now is the time to start trying.
Buy child-safe scissors, along with sturdy, thick paper. Have her cut straight lines across the paper, or you can draw shapes she can cut out.
As always, make it fun! For instance, glue the pieces she cuts onto another piece of paper or poster as an art piece.
5. Encourage social skills
Turn-taking, listening, and following the rules are important social skills in kindergarten.
If your child has siblings, cousins, or play mates, guide him through proper social conducts. Don’t force them 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.
And remind him to be kind. He’ll meet many new people—some nice, others not. Some might show familiar and common traits, while others will feel like a culture shock.
Explain that it’s fine to disagree, to feel hurt, and even to feel frustrated, but we can’t be mean. Teach him coping methods like telling someone “stop,” walking away, or telling an adult.
And as always, teach empathy. Mention other people’s emotions and how they relate to his. Remind him to put himself in other people’s shoes and think about what they must feel like. And say how his actions can affect others around him.
6. Sleep (and wake up) early
A few weeks before school starts, your child should sleep at a decent hour—many sleep experts 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 bedtime and wake up time 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.
7. 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 and can learn how to put most of their own clothing on.
Show him where the tag is on each pair of pants or shorts and explain that that goes in the back. Show him how to pull his shirt down over his head, and how to slip his arms through sweaters and jackets. Practice buttoning pants and shorts.
Not only will he be able to dress himself in the mornings, he’ll also be able to use the restroom with ease or remove his jacket as needed.
8. Start your mornings with a good breakfast
Breakfast should be easy and simple but healthy and filling as well. Teachers love it when kids come to school after having eaten a hearty breakfast, since this helps them stay alert and avoid hunger.
Our weekday breakfasts are pretty consistent and simple, and include:
- Oatmeal with milk and chopped dates, paired with a fruit
- Yogurt parfait with granola, honey, and chopped fruit, along with toast
- A bowl of cereal and milk with a side of fruit
Each morning should start with a healthy breakfast. Your child will feel less sluggish during the day and will be able to stave off hunger.
9. Discuss the logistics
Even if you’re not familiar with the school yet, talk about the logistics that you do know about. For instance, what will your child eat for lunch—will it be cafeteria food or a lunch she brings from home? Which food will she be eating for snack during recess?
Talk about what the morning assembly might look like, and how she’ll line up along with the rest of her classmates. Explain that she has her water bottle in her backpack any time she feels thirsty.
Then, discuss what will happen after school. Who will pick her up, at what time, and where? Will she be going to an after-school program? If so, where is that located?
While you don’t want to overwhelm her with too many details, give her just enough so she knows what to expect.
10. Arrive on time
This should be a rule for every day, but it’s a must on the first few days of kindergarten. Arrive on time (or, if you’re like me, arrive earlier than later).
After all, you might not be familiar with the campus, either. Give yourself plenty of time to find parking, find and meet his teachers, and get him settled into class.
There’s nothing worse than feeling like you’re late and rushing through your morning. With plenty of time in the morning, any hiccups you face—a forgotten water bottle, getting lost—won’t feel so bad.
11. Leave your child cheerfully
Many schools will welcome parents on campus for the first few days, whether to attend morning assembly or even enter the classroom. But I highly recommend that you not linger for too long. Your child might cling onto you even more because you continue to stay and comfort her.
Instead, leave after she’s settled or when the teacher says to—all without drama. She needs to know she’s in safe hands, not in an environment where you have to comfort her. In leaving swiftly but cheerfully, you reassure her that she should be in class and that you’re happy she’s in school.
12. 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 restrooms 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 he’ll remember kindergarten and thrive in its environment.
Going to kindergarten can feel nerve-wrecking for both parent and child (“Wasn’t she just two-years-old a second ago?”). But with these tips, you can make that transition much smoother for everyone.
Assign her chores at home so she can contribute in the classroom. Get familiar with the campus so it looks familiar on the first day of school. Read every day, and practice using child-safe scissors. Encourage good social skills, whether with her siblings or other friends.
Sleep and wake up at a decent around, and encourage her to dress herself, especially when using the bathroom or putting on a jacket. Start your mornings with a good breakfast so she’s alert and ready to go. Talk about the logistics you know, from school pick up to handling lunch.
Arrive on time (or even earlier) so you don’t rush. Leave cheerfully so she can sense your confidence. And embrace this new chapter in her life—she’ll take your cue from you and face kindergarten with the same gusto.
Kindergarten can feel daunting, but now she’ll know what to expect—and learn to love this new chapter in her life.
Get more tips:
- What Every Kindergartener Should Know by the End of the Year
- 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
- Cool Science Kits for Kindergarten Kids
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