Congratulations! You have been thinking about your child’s transition to kindergarten for a long time. You’ve been supporting your child’s transition by doing some research, talking to friends and family who have been through the process, and, if your child is in preschool or child care, talking with his/her preschool teacher. You and your child are ready!
So how do you prepare for the big day?
You already have! By doing things like:
- establishing or tweaking family routines like, mealtime, family time, reading time, and/or bedtime routines that will support you and your child in preparing for the first day of kindergarten
- visiting the school and the classroom and meeting the teacher, the principal, and other important “school people”
- collecting and completing all the paperwork to give to your child’s kindergarten teacher on the big day – or before as appropriate to meet requirements in your school district
You’ve done your homework, and now you and your child are both ready to enjoy the experience!
You’ll need to pack all the usual things. It’s a good idea and fun to involve your child in planning what needs to be in the backpack. You can make it easy on your child and on yourself by packing the backpack the night before and leaving it waiting by the door. Be sure to include:
- items on any list provided by the teacher/school
- a healthy lunch if appropriate, wrapped/packed so your child can open items independently
Take your Getting to Know My Child Booklet to school and give it to the teacher.
Plan to arrive a little early. You may have the opportunity to chat with the teacher or meet other parents and children. And your child will be able to enter the classroom without being rushed. If you think your child may have trouble separating, talk to the teacher prior to the first day about how to handle it in a way that works best for you, your child, and the classroom.
If your child rides the bus, you won’t have the daily opportunity to chat with the teacher or meet other parents and their children, but there will be other opportunities, or you can request them.
More About Communication
First and foremost, think about how you will want to communicate with the teacher about your child’s kindergarten experience on a day to day basis.
Some teachers may keep families up-to-date via newsletters or with classroom websites where they update the site weekly, upload photos to it, and communicate with parents via a “comments” section. But in the age of tweets and mobile status updates, many have switched to free, location-based social media apps that families can download to their computers, tablets, or phones. Families get real-time updates and can give feedback instantly. They see what’s happening on a daily basis instead of having to wait for weekly newsletters or web site updates. Your child’s teacher will let you know about opportunities like these.
But you can also let your teacher know your preferred method for back and forth communication about your child. Perhaps texting is easiest for you or email or phone calls. Indicate that you want to stay in touch given you won’t be seeing each other on a daily basis and which method of communication works best for you.
Meeting Other Families
As for opportunities to meet other families and their children, watch for notification of beginning of the year open houses and other school events as well as opportunities to serve on classroom or school committees where you can have a voice in decisions that affect your child.
If by planning ahead, you can get off from work, talk to your child’s teacher about volunteering in the classroom or helping out on field trips. If you have hobbies or skills that might be of interest in the classroom, let your child’s teacher know that you’re available. If you just can’t get to school for evening events or get time off from work to schedule time at school during the day, let your teacher know, so you can explore together creative ways for you to partner with your teacher and your school to support your child’s learning and development.
Arriving a little early is good at pick-up too, providing the same opportunities to chat with the teacher, meet other parents and children, and allow your child to leave the classroom without being rushed.
If your child rides the bus, you will have to take advantage of other opportunities to chat with the teacher and meet other parents and children – or create your own opportunities as discussed above in the arrival section.
Whether you drop-off or pick-up at school or put your child on the bus in the morning and meet the bus in the afternoon, try to take your time and listen to what your child has to say about his/her day, take advantage of or create opportunities to chat with the teacher, and find ways to interact with other families.
At the end of the day…..
Your interest and excitement speaks volumes to your child about the importance of kindergarten. Plan quiet time together after school or in the evening after work to hear all about the big day!
Ask open ended questions that will encourage your child to share his/her experiences rather than those that can be answered yes or no – e.g. “Tell me about the other children.” rather than “Did you like the other children?”
Be reassuring and help your child problem-solve if he/she encountered any difficulties. Encourage your child to tell his/her other family members and siblings about kindergarten too.
And then do all the things you do every day and evening to support your child’s learning and development!
And don’t forget to check the backpack for notes, flyers, and other information or communication from the teacher/school!
Congratulations on this important milestone for your child and family and good luck with all the others that will follow!