Starting school for the first time can be an overwhelming transition for kids and parents! It’s normal to experience all sorts of emotions – from excitement and joy, to fear and anxiety. As we’ve learned through our summer series, being ready for kindergarten is about so much more than ABCs and 123s.
Here’s a simple checklist that will help you and your child feel more prepared for kindergarten:
1. Help your child feel secure.
Kids thrive academically, socially, and emotionally when their world feels loving, safe, and supportive. If a child’s world feels chaotic and stressful, if there are no routines, if they don’t know how to express their emotions, if they haven’t heard positive messages about school – anxiety and distraction will get in the way of learning.
Here’s the good news. Helping your child feel secure can be a simple part of everyday life.
Physical affection, using loving and supportive language, and creating easy rhythms in everyday life all work together to help your child feel cared for and confident.
If you’d like real-life tips for helping your young child feel secure as they transition to school, check out our first post in the series: 6 simple ways to help your child FEEL ready for kindergarten.
2. Visit the school and attend “Meet the Teacher” night.
We all appreciate familiar faces when we’re in a new environment! Meeting the teacher, principal, nurse, and others in the school setting will help your child realize that there are caring adults waiting to help them.
Think of how overwhelming it can be for a small child to walk into a huge and unfamiliar new building. When you visit the school, be sure and tour the hallways, cafeteria, and locate the restrooms. This makes a new school less scary and unknown.
3. Don’t leave paperwork and immunizations until the last minute.
When parents have last-minute stress, kids feel that stress too. And the last thing anyone wants before school is extra stress! There will always be extra tasks you don’t expect, so give a gift to your future self and your new kindergartner by getting a head start on these requirements.
– Make sure your child has received the immunizations (shots) required for school. If you’re not sure what is required, contact your local elementary school or visit their website. You can receive the required immunizations from your local health department, your pediatrician, or even your local drug store that has a health clinic inside.
– Make sure your child is registered for school. Even if you attended a kindergarten evaluation in the spring, that doesn’t always mean your child is registered and ready to begin. The school will need certain documents and paperwork from you before your kindergartner can start school. If you’re not sure what’s required, contact the school and they can help.
4. Ease into daily routines, especially an earlier bedtime.
Staying up late, sleeping in, and extra screen time are typical of many families in the summer. But the early mornings won’t be as much of an adjustment for your child if you begin transitioning to a school schedule during these last weeks of summer. Once school begins, your child will need to be well rested. Tired kids struggle more with paying attention, following directions, and having a positive experience at school.
Here’s another reason to ease into daily routines: predictability and consistency help your child feel secure. It’s why young kids love the same books, movies, and activities over and over again! Routines can also help you as a parent; the more a child gets used to a routine, the less they tend to push back against you as the parent. That means less conflict and negotiating between you and your child.
5. Read stories to help your child feel ready.
Stories are a great tool to connect to your child’s “inner world” in a way that regular conversation doesn’t always touch. When children see that a character in a book experiences the same fear or nervousness as them, it helps them feel less alone. They understand that it’s normal to feel anxious about school and big changes.
Later you can point back to stories as an example: “Remember Pete the Cat’s first day of school? Remember how much fun he had?”
Your local library will have all sorts of books on starting kindergarten, but here are some titles to get you started:
– Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten, Joseph Slate
– Mom, It’s My First Day of Kindergarten, Hyewon Yum
– Pete the Cat: Rocking in My School Shoes, Eric Litwin
– Seven Little Mice Go to School, Kazuo Iwamura
– The Night Before Kindergarten, Natasha Wing
– Yoko Learns to Read, Rosemary Wells
You can also check out this list of “9 Smart Books to Get Your Child Ready for Preschool or Kindergarten.”
Once your child begins school, keep practicing all the readiness tips you’ve learned this summer. This helps create a lifestyle of learning!
This is the 8th post in our summer series designed to help get your child ready for kindergarten. Thanks for sharing with other parents and caregivers of rising kindergartners who may benefit!
Here are the other posts in this series: