Helping your child prepare for kindergarten
While the first few days can come with tears and nerves, we find that most students (and parents!) adjust quickly to the new routine. We understand that the introduction to school is a process that will take time, and our teachers and other staff throughout the building are well-versed in helping students adjust to their new routine. Talking and reading books together can be great avenues to discussions.
In advance of the first day, you may want to have the following conversations with your child:
- What will the beginning of the day be like? Talking with your child about the beginning of their day -- from getting dressed to eating breakfast to getting to school on time -- can be a great way to launch new habits. You might want to explain in detail what kind of help your child can expect from you or others and what they should be able to tackle on their own. Some parents have found success in making charts or visual checklists to help young learners remember what to do and promote independence, or doing a “dry run” of the new morning routine.
- How will we say goodbye? Edutopia suggests, “The key is to establish a consistent pattern of saying goodbye so your child knows what ritual to expect and that they will make it through the time apart, and understands that you really will return.”
- What type of lunch will I be eating? Some children bring a lunch from home each day while others buy a hot lunch from the cafeteria. It’s great to talk to your kindergartner about the processes for each. For example, if they’re bringing lunch, explain the need to bring the lunchbox home each afternoon to be cleaned and refilled. If your child will buy lunch at school, it’s helpful to practice together counting out lunch money.
- What should I expect at the end of the day? Will they meet you on campus for pickup? If so, it can be helpful to identify a spot in advance. Will they be riding the bus home or to an afterschool program? If so, let them know when and where an adult will meet them after the bus reaches their stop. Figure out a backup plan in case of the unexpected and talk with your child about it.
- What should your teacher know about me? It can be helpful to reassure children that their teachers will get to know and appreciate their unique personalities. Some good conversation starters you can have with your child include: What are you great at doing? What do you like to learn about? How do you like to learn (e.g., by listening first? by doing? by watching others?)?
- Worries and fears. Having practical conversations can be a great way to ease fears. While you may want to be quick to reassure your children and end their worry (“Don’t worry, it’ll be okay!”), children feel a sense of ease by having the opportunity to talk about their concerns and feel listened to by a caring adult. Edutopia recommends: “Thank [children] for sharing the worries and then brainstorm solutions together.”
Reading books together about school can be another good opportunity to discuss the excitement and fears that come along with new experiences. Here are some suggestions (including titles that our kindergarten teachers read during the first weeks of school):
- Clifford’s First School Day by Norman Bridwell
- Curious George’s First Day of School by H.A. and Margaret Rey
- First Day Jitters by J. Danneberg
- I am Absolutely Too Small for School by L. Child
- I love school! by P. Sturges & S. Halpern
- Kindergarten Rocks! by Katie Davis
- Leo the Late Bloomer by R. Kraus
- Look Out Kindergarten, Here I Come by Nancy Carlson
- Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten by Joseph Slate
- Mom, It’s My First Day of Kindergarten by Hyewon Yum
- Pete the Cat: Rocking in My School Shoes by Eric Litwin
- Seven Little Mice Go to School by Kazuo Iwamura
- The Berenstain Bears Go to School by Stan and Jan Berenstain
- Will I Have a Friend? by M. Cohen
- Yoko Learns to Read by Rosemary Wells
What is kindergarten orientation?
We can’t wait to welcome our new kindergarteners and their families. To ensure a smooth transition, we have two orientation days (Monday, August 19th and Tuesday, August 20th) prior to the first full day on Wednesday, August 21st. Each school runs orientation a bit differently, so please check with your school for details on dropoff and pickup times, bus service, and parent meetings.
What should my child bring to school?
Typically, students bring a backpack with their school supplies, a water bottle, lunch or lunch money, a healthy snack, a light jacket, and an extra set of clothing in a bag or ziplock (just in case). We suggest labeling all items. For lunch and snack, please check with your child’s teacher to see if there are food allergies in the class that you need to be aware of. If you haven’t already dropped off your school supplies (during back to school night or meet-your-teacher night), then you can bring them the first day.
Will my child know how to navigate kindergarten?
Kindergarten is the introduction to school, and so teachers put careful attention and time into helping orient students to the process of school. Staff build in activities throughout the day so that kids get to know each other, their teachers, and the school, and learn how to get their basic needs met (where to go to the bathroom, when to eat snack, where to get water, etc.). Kindergarten students are supervised during all unstructured times (such as recess and lunch) and always travel as a group, so they won’t yet need to know how to navigate the school on their own.
What should my child wear to school?
Dress your child to play, with footwear that is suitable for the playground (flip-flops usually aren’t the best choice), and extra layers when needed. They'll be outside a lot!
What if my child has allergies, health or developmental issues, or other special needs?
Please be sure to let our staff know about any health or developmental concerns or screenings, supports, and special services that your child has been receiving. It’s best to reach out to the nurse, classroom teacher, and principal/assistant principal to be sure all are informed about any special needs.
What if my child is nervous about starting school?
We understand! We place additional staff (including teachers and counselors) in the kindergarten classrooms, especially during the first week of school, to help kids feel safe, happy, and secure in their new surroundings. This is the beginning of a new routine, so don't worry if your child is nervous -- most are! The introduction to school is a process that will take time, and teachers and staff throughout the building are well-versed in helping students adjust to their new routine. Bright Horizons recommends that parents “be a cheerleader” by pointing out “the positive aspects of starting school or going back to school” and talking about other new beginnings from the past that may have been scary at first but led to good memories.
If you are concerned that your child’s nerves are lingering, give it time and communicate with school staff. Edutopia suggests: “For most children, separation anxieties are normal and will pass. The key is to watch for a gradual increase in confidence and a diminishment of worries. If the anxiety continues or increases, check in with the teacher or counselor to see if they have suggestions to help your child adjust. Just remember that the adjustment process may take anywhere from a day to several weeks, so be patient. Helping your child learn to say goodbye and handle life confidently without you is just one more important developmental milestone and a part of growing up.”
Can I walk my child inside the school?
Definitely! We ask that you park your car in the designated parking area, not in the pickup/dropoff or bus lanes. When you’re ready to say goodbye, Edutopia recommends “a simple and matter-of-fact ‘See you soon!’” and a reassuring hug.
How can I get involved in my child’s education and school?
We encourage all parents to get involved in their child’s school and education in ways that are meaningful to them. We hope you get to know school staff, including teachers, school leaders, counselors, front office staff, family liaisons, and others. Each school sends out regular communications in backpack mail and via email and the school district sends a monthly newsletter to all parents. Each school has a parent involvement organization (such as a PTA) and can share more about volunteer opportunities. We ask for a background check and fingerprint for all regular volunteers in schools.