Kindergarten is about more than learning to count and recite the ABCs. For many kids, it is the first of many milestones of independence. Kindergarten teaches kids to listen, to learn, to make friends and to try the monkey bars again even though they fell the first time. These skills will become a foundation for their lives inside and outside of the classroom.
So when you think about preparing your child for kindergarten, it is not just about teaching them to count or write their name, it is preparing them to thrive as they encounter the challenges of independence and the opportunities of connection and curiosity.
By no means do you need to be able to check off everything on this list for your child to be able to do well in school. Rather, these are good things to be intentional about as you and your little one prepare for the big day!
1. Prepare Logistically
Photo caption: Think through details like indoor shoes. Knowing how to put on and off indoor shoes will help make transitions smoother for your child. Tying shoes builds confidence, but there is nothing wrong with starting out with slip-ons or velcro.
Register your child for kindergarten
The registration process differs depending on where you live. Look for information on the website from your local school board or visit your local school for more information.
Make sure you get confirmation and essential details from the new school
Most schools will send out an information package to newly registered students, including Kindergarteners. Be sure to read the information and make sure you know when and where to drop-off and pick-up your child. Some schools will have a sign-out password, and others require you to bring identification and be registered as a caregiver of your child.
Make notes for the teacher
If your child has special needs, dietary restrictions, or there are unique things that you want the teacher to know about, prepare a very concise page with key information. Remember that the teacher is handling a lot the first week of school, so make it as easy as possible for them.
Pack school supplies
Your school board likely has a list of recommended school supplies for each grade on their website. Typically kindergarteners need:
-a stocked lunch box
-a no-leak water bottle
-a change of clothes including pants, underwear, shirt and socks (for the washroom, accidents, spills, etc)
-appropriate clothing for outside such as a sun hat or jacket
-a comfort item (also known as a transitional object) such as a favorite photo, small toy or keychain
-a checklist with pictures of what belongs in the backpack to help your child pack
-a blanket if your school includes naptime
-diapers/pull-up and wipes (if needed)
Remember, there will be lots of other kid’s stuff at school, so label everything you care about.
2. Familiarize Your Child to Routines and Tasks Associated with School
When you are four years old, a task that an adult doesn’t even think about can seem like an insurmountable obstacle. Being in a new place with new people will be somewhat challenging for most kids, but you can help ease the transition by familiarizing them with as many aspects of kindergarten ahead of time, as possible.
Photo caption: Practice parts of the day like eating lunch from a lunch box. Working on practical skills can be turned into fun summer activities to do with your child before the school year starts.
Practice using the items your child will take to school with them
Bringing the right supplies is only useful if your child knows that is it there and how to use it. If they are familiar with using the items, they will feel comforted and confident instead of confused or overwhelmed. Let your child help pack their school bag and practice using each of the items before school starts. For example, if you got a new water bottle, teach your child to open, fill and close it. Let them do that often at home so that they will be confident doing it at school when the time comes.
Practice putting on and off clothing and shoes for indoors and outdoors
Make sure that your child is comfortable doing up zippers and securing their shoes on their own. If this is stressful for your little one, remind them that if they try themselves and get really stuck, they can ask their teacher for help. Make sure that your child is also familiar with the spare clothes in their bag and knows what to do with dirty clothes. If your child wears pull-ups, they should be comfortable cleaning themselves up.
Practice eating lunch or snacks
Make sure your child is comfortable opening and eating everything that you pack for them. You might have “lunchbox picnics” at home to practice.
Start morning and evening routines before the first day of school
Practice a morning routine for several days before the first day of school. It is helpful if your child’s sleeping schedule is adjusted ahead of time so that tiredness doesn’t make the first week harder. Practice getting ready in a realistic amount of time.
Talk about what school will be like
Explain what kindergarten will be like. Ask your child how they feel and encourage them to be excited. If your child is friends with older kids, ask them about kindergarten. You can even share stories about what you remember from when you went to elementary school.
Take a school tour (if your school allows it)
If your school allows it, take a school tour including the classroom, playground and washroom. If possible, let your child use the washroom while you are there, as new facilities are often a worrying part of the first week. If you have the chance to meet the teacher ahead of time, that would be an incredible bonus! If you aren’t allowed in the school, even walking around the school can help it seem like a safe, familiar place.
Meet a friend
If you know other incoming kindergarteners in the area, let the kids meet each other. This is great for the kids to have a familiar face and parents could often use a supporting friend, as well.
3. Teach School Skills
There is no prerequisite knowledge for kindergarten, but kids will thrive if they have the confidence of a head start at home.
Photo caption: There are all kinds of tips, toys and even apps that you help you give your child a head start academically.
Some kids will be able to learn to sight-read some words before kindergarten. If your child isn’t ready, there are lots of pre-reading skills to practice with your child such as associating letters with sounds, understanding that stories have a beginning, middle and end and recognizing their name.
Count household objects and teach your child to recognize or even trace numbers.
Start basic computer fluency
Have your child learn to use a mouse and turn a device on or off.
Work on building your child’s vocabulary
You can build vocabulary by reading, conversing and even watching educational TV.
Teach Learning and Social Skills
Even more important than basic knowledge, is practicing learning skills that will allow kids to take in new information and connect with their peers. Outside the home activities are a great way to start learning these skill sets, but there is a lot you can do at home as well!
Photo caption: Playing with other kids before school starts is a great way to jump-start a range of social skills.
- Listening without interrupting
Gently, consistently remind children to say “excuse me” instead of interrupting and help them recognize when speaking is inappropriate.
- Following instructions
In addition to age-appropriate household tasks, there are lots of games that require kids to follow instructions and these games are great school-preparedness tools.
- Communicating feelings
Regularly ask your child about their feelings, giving examples of options (ie. do you feel angry right now?) and asking follow-up questions (ie. what is making you angry?). Sharing your own feelings and explaining how you are dealing with them can help your child understand how to articulate themselves.
- Paying attention
Try asking questions about books you read together or TV that you watch to train your child to be able to recall what they observe.
- Being curious
Foster curiosity with unstructured play. Answer your child’s questions as much as possible and allow them to explore in safe ways.
- Making decisions
Allow your child to make some decisions on their own. You might encourage them to pick out their own clothes or decide what kind of craft they would like to do.
- Lining up
Use the words “line up” when in stores or other line up situations with your kid. If you have siblings or friends over, play follow the leader games that require line ups.
- Sharing toys and taking turns with other kids
Practicing waiting in a variety of contexts can also help foster this skill.
- Sitting still
Start with short periods of time (ie. 1 minute) and work your way up. If your child can sit still for 8 – 12 minutes with some form of engagement but without individual attention, they will do great in a kindergarten class.
4. Prepare yourself
Remember that the first day of kindergarten is a big day for parents too!
Photo caption: Your little one will be safe at school! Don’t worry too much!
Have grace for yourself if not everything is perfect
Going to school is all about learning, so if the process is a little bit messy, it is totally okay!
Ask if you have questions
School administration and teachers will likely be happy to answer any questions you have. Other parents are also a great resource.
Lastly, take a very cute photo of your little one ready to go and enjoy this family milestone!
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Hi, I’m JD (Big Daddy). After I became a lawyer and ran a successful law practise for a while, I became interested in blogging, developing new technology for the law, playing in the outdoors and taking lots of vacations. I still spend time being a lawyer, but I’m trying to pursue my other passions, and I’d like to document all my fun in various blogs.