Kindergarten is a big change young children face. Learn how to prepare your child for kindergarten to help them adjust to a new school.
Even if your child had been going to preschool, transitioning to kindergarten can still feel nerve-wracking.
He’ll meet new friends and teachers he’d never seen before. The school might have a different schedule than what he’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.
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 might 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 him that kindergarten can be an exciting and seamless adjustment. Take a look at what you can do right at home, whether he’s been in preschool or not:
Table of Contents
1. Give your child chores
Your child’s kindergarten teacher might 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 might 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.
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2. Get familiar with the school
Few schools allow students to tour the campus the way you might a preschool. The first time she might meet her kindergarten teacher will likely be on the first day of school. How can you help her get familiar with the school setting, 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 open their classrooms for a meet and greet with the teachers before the big day. That way, she gets to see her kindergarten classroom and meet her teacher ahead of time.
- Find her teacher’s photo on the school’s website. Many schools 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 can help her get excited about 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, you can make crafts and glue the pieces she cuts onto another piece of paper or poster.
5. Encourage social skills
Turn-taking, listening, and following the rules are important social skills in kindergarten.
If your child has siblings, cousins, or playmates, guide her through proper social situations. 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, she has to wait her turn before speaking. Acknowledge her when she follows rules and instructions.
Remind her to be kind. She’ll meet many new people—some nice, others not. She might see familiar and common traits in some, while others might be 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 her 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 hers. Remind her to put herself in other people’s shoes and think about what they might be feeling. And describe how her actions can affect others around her.
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 him 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. Have your child practice snapping buttons and pulling up zippers.
Not only can he dress himself during your morning routine, but he can also 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:
- Oatmeal with milk and chopped dates, paired with a fruit
- Yogurt parfait with granola, honey, and berries, along with toast
- A bowl of cereal and milk with a side of fruit
Each morning should start with a healthy breakfast. Your child can feel less sluggish during the school day and better 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 he brings from home? Which food will he be eating for a snack during recess?
Talk about what the morning assembly might look like, and how he might line up along with the rest of his classmates. Explain that he has his water bottle and school supplies in his backpack.
Then, discuss what will happen after school. Who will pick him up, at what time, and where? Will he be going to an after-school program? If so, where is that located?
While you don’t want to overwhelm him with too many details, give just enough so he 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 your child’s new teacher and get her 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 welcome parents on campus for the first few days, whether to attend morning assemblies or even enter the classroom. But I highly recommend that you not linger for too long. Your child might cling to 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 takes his cues from you. When you worry, she might worry. But when she sees you excited, then she can enter kindergarten with a positive mentality.
It can be scary, no doubt. She has no idea where the restrooms are, or when lunchtime will be. She won’t know if the teacher is kind or if the other students will play with her.
But with your support, she can be 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 she can thrive in its environment.
Going to kindergarten can feel nerve-wracking 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 kindergarten. 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 can take your cue from you and face kindergarten with the same gusto.
Kindergarten can feel daunting, but now she knows what to expect—and learn to love this new chapter in her life.
Get more tips:
- What Should a Kindergartener Know by the End of the Year?
- Children’s Books about Kindergarten
- What to Do When Your Child Cries at School Drop Off
- Children’s Books About Math
- Cool Science Toys for Kids
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