5 Ways to Prepare Your Kindergartner for the First Day of School
Going back to school is tricky for any kid, but the nerves associated with the first day of a kindergartner are even more pronounced for little ones starting (not to mention their parents!). Consider these 5 tips for making the transition a little easier.
- Visit the building. Fear of the unknown is one of the main components of first-day jitters. Spend some time this summer walking around the school building and playing on the playground (if it is not enclosed). Point out anything you see which your child might remember later (“See that neat bench? It looks like the one at Grandma and Grandpa’s house!”). Some familiar landmarks and memories made with you near the building could help ease fears when school begins.
- Find out what the school’s mascot is and start to celebrate it. Will your child be a Tiger when she starts school? Cut out a tiger face shape from orange construction paper, along with black stripes, eyes, and a nose. Have your child help you make her tiger to be the mascot of her bedroom. Talk about what makes a tiger neat, and remind your child that she also has many of those attributes.
- Write a story to help set expectations. Even if your child has been at a full-day pre-school or daycare, a school setting will be a bit different. Write a story personalized for your child to create behavior expectations and decrease fear. Use pictures of your child, the school building, and even the teacher, when you learn which class your child will be in. Keep the story brief, write it from your child’s perspective, and explore how your child might feel and what they should do about those feelings. “In August, I will start kindergarten. I feel nervous about the first day, but I know my teacher, Mrs. Smith, will help me feel comfortable. I will make new friends, but I will still have all of my old friends to play with too.”
- Have your child pick out something new for the first day. Whether it is a first day of school outfit, a new backpack, or new shoes, something novel for the first day will create some excitement for the day to arrive. If money is tight, now is the perfect time to head to a children’s secondhand store or browse neighborhood garage sales to see what gems you and your child can find.
- Start the school-day schedule at least a week in advance. If your child likes to sleep in, begin waking him at the time he will need to get up for school. Eat breakfast, snacks, lunch, and dinner on the school-day schedule. It is hard to mimic the activities that will take place at school, but by at least helping to shape the structure of the day, your child will be used to it before the first day arrives.
By starting to have conversations now with your child about the new school and routine, you are setting him or her up for success. Most children respond best to order in their lives, and minimizing surprised should also help to minimize negative responses and behaviors. In the meantime, enjoy what’s left of your child’s last pre-school summer!