A smooth and successful transition to kindergarten is a gradual one!
Preschool teachers generally begin to talk with families about kindergarten transition fairly early in the pre-kindergarten year, and the conversation continues through the entire school year. In the first parent meetings, teachers may begin to talk about kindergarten and how play and a developmentally appropriate curriculum in preschool address what four-year-olds should know and be able to do.
By mid-year, information is generally shared about the local school district’s kindergarten registration process by both the preschool and the district.
If your child is not in preschool, you can create a gradual transition to kindergarten on your own by beginning to think about getting yourself and your child ready for this exciting transition at the beginning of the school year before your child starts kindergarten. Throughout this web site, reference is made to what families can do on their own by doing a little research, talking to families and friends who’ve been through the process, and learning about their school district’s processes and supports for families and children beginning kindergarten.
Kindergarten transition activities and experiences that may be offered in your community.
Kindergarten transition activities and experiences should include opportunities for everyone involved to meet and exchange information about the children who are transitioning. These efforts should include opportunities for the pre-kindergarten children themselves to become familiar with the people, places, and activities that will make up their kindergarten experience. Communities and school districts vary in how they approach and provide these opportunities, but generally these opportunities are promoted widely in the community through newspapers, television, flyers, social media, etc. The information can also be accessed through school district web sites or by contacting the district’s central office for information on kindergarten.
Examples of ways to support children’s transition to kindergarten include the following:
- Preschools and/or elementary schools with kindergarten classrooms may host open houses in which preschool and kindergarten teachers can interact and share general information and information about specific children.
- Co-training of preschool and kindergarten teachers on issues and processes relevant to transition are regarded as best practice and may occur in your school district.
- Some communities provide opportunities for families to meet kindergarten teachers and hear from them about what to expect in kindergarten.
- In the spring before kindergarten, visits may be arranged for preschool teachers and parents to observe in the kindergarten classroom and for kindergarten teachers to observe in the preschool classroom.
- In many communities, one or more of the following opportunities are provided to pre-kindergarten children. The children can:
- ride the school bus to and from school
- tour their new school where they see their classroom, the restrooms, the cafeteria, the playground, and the office
- meet their teachers, the principal, the school secretary, the lunchroom staff, the custodian, etc.
- participate in activities in the kindergarten classroom
- eat in the cafeteria
- play on the playground
- In some communities, instead of these experiences, families may receive a welcome packet that might include things like photos of the school, relevant parts of the building and grounds, and the teachers, the principal, and other school staff who will become part of the kindergarten children’s daily lives.
- Ideally, children and families have the opportunity to meet their kindergarten teachers prior to the first day of school, but in many communities district procedures result in assignment of children to teachers just before school starts.
Kindergarten transition activities and experiences families can request on their own.
In communities where these opportunities aren’t initiated by the preschool program or school district, families can request these opportunities themselves.
- They can request a meeting or home visit with their preschool teacher to talk about kindergarten and how they can support their child’s preparation at home in a way that is appropriate for their child.
- In the spring, families can request to observe in the kindergarten classroom.
- Before, during, or after that observation, they can request an appointment to meet the principal and tour the school with their child. If possible, the child can visit his/her classroom and meet the teacher.
- During the tour, families can ask to observe the school dismissal process, including the arrival and departure of the school busses, so their children can see that process too – and visit the cafeteria during lunchtime or the playground during recess.
- Families can create their own “Hello Kindergarten!” scrapbook containing pictures of the school and school staff that they share with their children regularly in the days and weeks leading up to the first day of kindergarten.
- And families can always visit the school several times during the summer and let their children play on the playground to become familiar with the school before the first day.
The goal is for you and your child to be familiar and comfortable with the school and the experiences that will begin on the first day. Your interest and support of your child’s learning will speak volumes to your kindergarten teacher and your principal about your intention to be fully engaged as a partner in supporting your child’s education.