Kindergarten is a big milestone for children—and for parents, too! Besides buying a new backpack and lunch box, how else can you help your child feel prepared and excited for the first day?
Emotional readiness: limiting those “firsts”
Most children are excited about starting school, but the transition can still be bumpy because they simply don’t know what kindergarten is all about. At age 4 or 5, young children don’t have a bank of experiences and memories to draw from. They don’t have the depth of experiences to imagine, realistically, what kindergarten will actually be like. If you say, “your kindergarten experience will be magical,” your child really might expect the teacher to do magic tricks.
Whether your child is excited or has some natural jitters, here are a few simple ways to create realistic expectations over the week or even weekend leading up to day one:
1. Meet other new families
If you haven’t already, schedule a playdate or two with other incoming children. And if your school has arranged play dates, take advantage! This helps your little one bond with some of her classmates, which will only make that first day more exciting.
2. Visit the school together
Take a mini trip together to your new school. You can walk around the block, look at the building, or visit nearby parks that the school visits and note, “this is where I’ll drop you off in the morning,” or “this is where you’ll play with your friends.” This helps your child mentally imagine himself in the new environment.
3. Practice her new daily routine
If your child tends to struggle with new routines at school, you can try “playing school” together by going through the school day, including signing in, recess, lunch, and group time. The emphasis here is on “play” — make it fun! Start by modeling at-home morning and bedtime routines. If your child always sleeps in until 8am and she’ll need to wake up at 7am to prepare for school, it’s time to practice that early wakeup the week prior! I’d also recommend preparing as much as you can the night before. Before bedtime, pick out clothes, pack lunch, and put everything in the backpack.
4. Schedule drop-off with a friend
Try to schedule arriving at school at the same time with one of her friends. This makes the first day feel more like a scheduled play date for your child, and she will have a built-in buddy to get the day started. Not to mention, you’ll have a buddy too.
5. Make a daily download part of the routine!
Make sure after that first day and week of school you’ve built in a ritual to discuss and download the day. Questions like, “What was your favorite part/hardest part of the day?” or “Who did you play with today?” or “Will you show me what you learned?” can help get the conversation started.
Model the confidence you’d like to foster in your child
Tears? Oh yes, there may be some. (I’m talking about you, not your little one). But as best you can, say goodbye with a smile and wipe your tears away when you round the corner. Remember, your child will look to you for guidance on this big day. By modeling the right kind of excitement— positivity and confidence— you’ll help embody the right energy to make that day a successful one.