The first few days of Kindergarten are such a whirlwind for parents and students. Emotions are high. Tantrums and aggressive child behaviors are a worry. The challenge of new people, new rules, and new experiences can be very overwhelming. But they can also provide so much structure and routine that young children crave.
These are the good challenges. The resilience that’s built by going through hard things (like a first day of school) can last (seriously) a lifetime.
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There are many ways for your child to show signs of readiness as he or she enters school. They may start with scribbles and pictures, move into scattered letters before progressing onto recognizable words by entering kindergarten age 5 years old.
These early steps in learning-to read & write often happen without any trouble at all! Watch their progress closely over time though – sometimes kids will regress if they’re not supported effectively enough during this important phase where brain development happens easily due its plasticity nature (flexibility). So don’t worry too much overall but do make sure you check-up
How Do I Prepare My 5-year-Old for Kindergarten?
Read to them…. Read some more… Read it over and over…. Read.
There is a reason this is the first one on this list.
Studies show that reading to children from infancy has a direct correlation to success in literacy.
Read books of all kinds.
Let them hear your voice and feel the love that’s in it. They’ll soak up your enthusiasm like a sponge!
Let them listen to audiobooks or read ebooks if that’s what you own and enjoy, but just let them watch the words on the page – let them derive meaning from this – and then they’ll be able to build these skills for themselves, at their own pace and in their own way.
Let them watch you reading and get a sense of how it all works. It’s suggested to read with your finger on the page, so they can follow the words as you read.
Let your child experience the rhythm and flow of spoken language, let them become comfortable with hearing stories, putting sounds together, understanding basic grammar, and following a narrative arc before expecting anything from them on their own.
Let them be part of the reading time – their questions, comments, and insights will tell you how they learn best.
Make it fun, make it comfortable, make it about love and trust and bonding with your kids (even if you’re young parents). This is not meant to be work for anyone! And this is not school yet! It is simple reading time together at home – reading should be fun for the whole family.
Teach Them How to Zip up Zippers…and Other Practical Life Skills.
Nothing says growing up more than saying “byebye binky!” and establishing super important basic self-care skills at home first. Your child will feel a sense of self-confidence and independence (hullo autonomy!) while at school.
Kids who can tie their own shoes, zip up zippers, button shirts & coats, etc… need less help from teachers/aids. If you have a little boy, maybe they have even learned how to not pee on the seat. And as a direct result, there’s more time for these teachers/aids to support the learning being done in school.
So if you’re not sure whether your child knows how to do these things, start with teaching them at home first! It’ll feel good when they can make their own sandwiches and go to the bathroom without help too, (but some of those skills come later…)
Ps. I’m a big fan of having your kid help you make their lunch starting in Kindergarten. My second grader now currently makes his entire lunch and snack with very little help from me.
How Do I Emotionally Prepare My Child For Kindergarten?
Especially that children come from a same and familiar environment before heading into school, they may feel a bit anxious. Understand them first! Try to relieve the pressure. One way of doing this is by engaging in easy back to school crafts for kids! Take a minute or two to dive into this post real quick because it outlines very well exactly what kind of activities you can have your kid dive into to help them be more at ease in his or her new environment!
Especially that, when it comes to academics, catching up on the hard stuff can wait. But social skills and emotional regulation are more time-critical so if you want your child’s development trajectory in these areas not only be smashing—they need all the help they could get!
That said though-in America there has been a major shift with kindergarten teachers putting an emphasis solely on being smarter than before rather than doing activities that stimulate creativity or imagination which means some kids may still feel left out even when able enough.
So if you wanted to make sure your child starts off on the right foot at school (which is the whole reason I wrote this article), then let me rephrase that last sentence.
If you want your child and their educational trajectory and growth to have success early and often, then teaching them basic and consistent emotional regulation is key.
I’m specifically talking about neurotypical children here.
If your child requires additional emotional/social/mental regulation interventions then we’re on a different topic altogether. (Although there is certainly crossover as some of the same expectations are and will continue to be there, without, necessarily, the same impulses and cognition)
If you’re a working parent, odds are good your kiddo has spent some time in a daycare setting, a caregiver, or with other children.
If you haven’t yet socialized your child in these settings, attending local story time’s at your library, connecting with other parents on Facebook/Instagram etc to attend play dates, or meeting up with families for getting together at a local parent and me class is a great way to get started.
Kids have a lot of imagination, and allowing them to explore this without their parents hovering helps build social self-confidence.
This practice helps them get in tune with the physical feelings that emotions can bring up. If they’re scared, tired, nervous, anxious…these are feelings we want to (hopefully) have our child express.
it’s also okay if you need to narrate them a bit at first.
Something I tend to do with my boys when they’ve had a big spill, for example, is to say “Yeah, that scared you a lot huh? It hurt, but maybe it was mostly scary? YOU felt out of control of your body. And it doesn’t feel good either. I’m gonna tell you right now, pain is temporary but that fear is real and I’m right here to tell you it’s a good thing your body told you to be scared! You gotta listen to that fear sometimes! It will keep you safe. But you can also trust that you won’t always fall. “
Etc etc etc…
Modeling empathetic understanding behavior is about as good as it gets when it comes to helping our children with their emotional regulation.
Conflict Resolution (Without Tears!)
Teach Empathy, Compassion, and Sympathy.
Empathy is the ability to recognize, understand and share the feelings of others.
If your child can see from another person’s perspective, they’re more likely to be able to promote understanding instead of conflict in a social setting. Kindergarten and First grade are going to be hard enough with learning new concepts without having all this at play too! So to help your child, you can start teaching empathy in simple ways that they will understand. First of all, don’t assume anything!
Instead of having to have a conversation about what has happened at school after it happens, talk with them before play dates or drop-offs/pick-ups about how they might feel if someone else did something.
My kids and I will sometimes role-play potential pitfalls. I.e. “What if I just grabbed a toy out of your hand”
Or…”What if so and so pushed you?”
What do you do?
This helps them think ahead about expected behaviors. It’s important to also distinguish between big bummer and small bummers.
I.e. Matthew going down the slide before you is a small bummer. Matthew pushing you and kicking you because you got to go first is a pretty big bummer and, thusly, worthy of a bigger reaction.
Be sure to check in with your school’s code of conduct to learn about which behaviors are worth of which reactions.
When it comes to teaching your child about compassion and sympathy, it can be as simple as telling them that when they feel sad or hurt, others might too.
What’s going to be especially key is allowing your child the space and time to develop their vocabulary for these concepts. It’s important to not expect too much out of a five, or six-year-old if this is new ground for them. But to support them when you can.
What Do You Do the First Week of Kindergarten?
The first week of Kindergarten is going to be a lot of rules and expectation setting.
Orienting the students who may or may have NEVER been in a formal school setting before about where the bathroom is, how to ask to go, and how to get back to the classroom.
Do they go as a class before recess? After lunch? Before lunch? Your child will have a lot of repetition with this and another first week of school activities.
It might also include things like where their seat is if they have assigned seating. Where to stand in a line, how to ask to get some water, or that someone wasn’t being kind to them.
To help prepare your child for the first week of kindergarten, you’re going to want to focus on the basic self-care things:
Washing hands. Wiping buts. These days the simple act of putting on and taking off a mask. How to operate giant hand sanitizer stations. How to flush the toilet. For little boys, how to lift the seat,
All of these seemingly straightforward tasks require a bit more of your attention. Practicing them until they become rote, and praising your child for the effort to remember to do these things will go a long way during those first few days.
Knowing what’s expected, and already having a handle on something is a perfect way to help your child feel confident in a rather otherwise confusing and overwhelming scenario (i.e. the first day of school!)
How to take off a sweater and put it back on so it’s not backward (this is especially prevalent when they have hoodies on! My youngest FAMOUSLY loves to wear his hoodie backward so he can hide his face in the hoodie part.
If You Liked It Then You Shoulda Put a Label On It
I hope these new lyrics to the Beyonce song “Put a Ring On It” get stuck in your head as a reminder when the first day of kindergarten comes around. Because if you don’t put a label on it, chances are you’ll never see it again.
The lunch box. The backpack. The snack box. The jacket. All of these items seem like no-brainers to label.
But you’re gonna want to put a label on literally everything.
Each piece within a lunch box. I.e. any reusable spoons, forks, or smaller containers (lid and container).
Kindergartner’s little fingers sometimes fumble with grabbing these things and if you want to retrieve them, be sure they have their name on them!
I also like to go through the hall closet and label every single sweater, hoodie, jacket, and hat they have.
You can never be too prepared! So many times I think “my child will never want to wear that hoodie again” and then sure enough they’re begging for it.
I personally love these labels on Amazon – they come pre-printed and in some sweet designs. they stick on lunch boxes (and go through the dishwasher no problem) and clothes! If I realize that I’ve forgotten to label something, no problem! I can quickly throw this on as we’re walking out the door.
How to Best Prepare for Kindergarten? Start Getting Into a Routine (If you aren’t already in one)
From walking for the first time, to weaning night feedings and now getting into a routine for kindergarten. Things do move fast! If you haven’t already (and I hope you have been!) keeping your child on a routine, even a basic loose one, is a great way to help your child have success in those first few weeks of school.
Setting up morning routines is a great way to help your child transition from home life into the school setting.
Starting off with getting dressed, having an early breakfast together and then going out for library books will give them all kinds of confidence as they start their first day at ____! Get yourself ready in time too so that you can spend some quality one-on-one bonding moments before starting another busy week ahead – reading together never hurt anybody right?
First Day of School Jitters! – How To Help Calm Your Child’s Nerves
First, a storytime:
The first day back to school after the pandemic, my then first grader was scared. He was quiet and stoic watching the houses go by out the window as we drove to school.
This was my talkative, gregarious, outgoing child. Naturally, I asked him what was up.
“I’m a little scared, mommy.”
I pulled over to the side of the road (safely) and turned around to look at him.
I told him “I know. It’s scary. But you’ve had lots of first days of school before, and you’ve always been okay. This one is different because a lot has changed since you were at school.”
I was lucky in that I had a sharpie in my car. I pulled it out and drew a little heart on my hand. I asked him for his hand.
He handed it over and I drew a little heart on his hand near his thumb.
I said, “We both have the same heart in the same spot. If you get scared, if you miss me, or your brother, or daddy, just push that heart on your hand and we’ll send you all the love in the universe.”
It was a small gesture but it worked WONDERS for him.
To this day, anytime there’s the first day of anything, my kiddos walk in with little hearts on their hands. Of course, it’s escalated a bit in that they need one for all three of their other family members (and sometimes the dog too!) but that’s not a problem if it helps them feel a sense of calm/and control in an otherwise emotionally charged situation.
First Day of Kindergarten Books!
Sometimes the act of watching a video or a show or reading a book is a great way to help give your child a leg up on what to expect on a first day. They can imagine themselves
First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg – First day jitters are normal for kids and adults alike. First Day Jitters is a funny story about getting ready for school and how sometimes people are just plain scared to go!
By Danneberg, Julie
Daniel Goes to School (Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood) by Fred Rogers
This is a heartwarming story about Daniel and his deep anxiety before going on the bus for the first time.
Kindergarten, Here I come! By D.J. Steinberg is an exciting story about a young girl who can’t wait to go to school.
By Steinberg, D.J.
How to Make the First Day of Kindergarten Special
Now that your child is “ready” and understands what’s to come, you can lean into how to make this a really special day for them.
There are so many ways to make the first day of Kindergarten special for your child.
You could have a special first day of school breakfast or a special first day of school after-school snack.
In our house, we tend to do a wendy’s drive-through with frosty’s for a special first-day treat!
We also like to do the first day of school picture (here’s a cute and adorable printable sign you can use too if you need one!)
My kids and I tend to walk to school, so we also like to do a first-day first walk! And see how long it takes us to get to school on the first day, as compared to the last day of the semester (but this is hyper-specific!)
You could also have a car dance party, a breakfast dance party, or just a dance party for the first day being check, done!
Comment below some fun ideas you’ve done to celebrate your kindergartner’s first day!
Here’s an awesome first day of kindergarten sign too (and make sure to print out the last day of kindergarten sign as well so you can have a photo of how much your baby has grown this year!
Mentally Prepare for a Rough First Month (Yes, I said Month)
The first month of school is always the hardest, and it’s no wonder why!
Your child will have to learn and adjust to new routines, changes in his physical environment, and meet lots of brand new people. He may be nervous or anxious about these things; he may even struggle with separation anxiety.
There’s also the process of adapting to a school schedule (If you have a late sleeper, consider backing up bedtime in a week or so before school starts to give your child a bit more sleep the first week of school!)
But keep in mind, you might have had a little time to bond with your child’s new teacher, (Or at least get to meet her) and throughout the first few weeks, he has had some time to get used to the school day structure.
Even though the first month may be the most difficult, keep your expectations realistic for your child. This will ensure that both of you are not being too hard on yourselves or each other.
I usually make a point of not scheduling anything during that first month.
Afterschool activities, music practice, play dates…all take a back seat. We have a clear and open calendar ready to absorb the emotions that come with this transition.
And to be honest, we kind of need it.
My kids are really good about sitting still, paying attention, and focusing. But it is A LOT of work. And when they get home, they finally feel safe to let go and release all that social pressure of having to be “on” all day…they run, scream, yell, (sometimes at each other). Unfortunately, we might get the “worst” side of them, but it’s because they feel safest around us.
This year, I’ve been making a point of sitting with my kids right after we come home and just holding them. We call it “hug time” and it is just a way to decompress after a long, stressful, boring, overwhelming, exciting day.
There are no rules, except for one: They must hug until relaxed. Usually, that looks like them taking a nice deep breath (without being forced to). It is their bodies way of releasing that tension they didn’t even know they were holding.
Pro tip: Do this same activity with your spouse or significant other when they get home too. It’s a super fast and effective way to connect and decompress without creating more “to do” items on your already busy list.
What to Expect When Kindergarten Starts
The first day of Kindergarten can be a stressful time for both parents and children. First, it’s important to set expectations with your child about how they will feel on their first day. For younger kids who are easily overwhelmed, make sure you talk to them about the importance of going slow and taking one step at a time.
Talk through some possible scenarios that may happen during the day like meeting new friends or having someone ask him/her for help. This way, he’ll know what to expect when these things occur which will lessen his anxiety in those moments where he needs support from an adult figure (whether it’s mommy or daddy).
If your child is older than 5 years old, have a conversation with him/ her about being brave and trying new things. Remind him/her that there’s always a way to get help if they need it.
And even though the first day of school is often overwhelming and overstimulating, try not to stress too much about your child and their feelings and emotions. First days are usually difficult for everyone—join in! You can both lean on each other for support.
Be patient and try your best to be encouraging. If you know they’ll have a rough day, make sure you allow them some downtime before bedtime so they can re-energize themselves for the next day. It’s also good practice to keep their regular sleep schedule as much as possible—even though it’s probably going to be tough at first.
How to Navigate the First Day of School – For Parents
Now it’s time to turn our attention to you and your own feelings about the first day of school. First, it’s important that you don’t feel guilty or ever question yourself as a parent for sending your child off into the world every morning.
Remember that YOU are doing what you think is best for your child, and right now that may be sending them to Kindergarten.
You’re providing them with an opportunity for a (hopefully!) great education and wonderful experiences which will help them achieve their goals in life—whether you realize it or not!
The first days of school are always hard because we don’t know what to expect and we want everything to go perfectly. First of all, it’s impossible for anyone to control every situation and outcome. Whether they’re anxious about saying the right thing or not getting pulled out of line by a teacher (or some other random reason that exists only in our overactive imaginations), we end up feeling like we’ve failed them somehow—like we should have done something different to make it all better.
What works for one child may not work for another, so don’t compare your child or yourself to others who are sending their children off to school with “got-it-all-figured-out” smiles plastered to their faces.
First days are scary, but they’re also exciting and filled with growth—for both parent and child.
In other words, don’t compare yourself to other Moms at the bus stop or in the carpool line because you’re doing a great job, momma! You may feel like everyone else has it all figured out while you’re worried about everything—but the truth is, no one has this parenting thing down to an exact science. First of all, we’re all just doing our best and that’s okay!
Now that you’ve had a good cry (or perhaps more than one) get ready for pick up because the whirl wind of post-school is coming atchu hard and fast!
The First Day of Kindergarten
The First Day of Kindergarten can be a nerve-wracking experience for both children and parents. However, there are many things you can do to help prepare your child for the first day. One way is to read stories about the First Day of Kindergarten to them.
You can also help them practice their self-help skills, such as tying their shoes or brushing their teeth. Additionally, you can help them develop routines and give them a sense of responsibility by having them help get ready for school in the morning.
Finally, you can send your child off with a little bit of love by drawing a heart on their hand with a Sharpie marker. With these tips, your child will have a great First Day of Kindergarten!