Is your child headed off to kindergarten this year?  If so, this can be an exciting time for both parents and children, but it can be a stressful time as well.  Some children, particularly those who have never attended child care or preschool, may feel anxious or scared about their first day of school.  As parents, you may also feel sad, anxious, excited, and even a little scared yourself about this new stage in your child’s life.

Beginning kindergarten usually means lots of new changes.  For children, it may mean getting used to a new teacher, learning a new set of rules, and making new friends.  For parents, it may mean that your child now rides the bus and gets home later in the day.  In addition, the way you communicate with your child’s teacher may change, particularly in that you will likely no longer have the daily contact you have been used to with child-care providers.

What can parents do to help children prepare for Kindergarten?  The Terrific Transitions website (University of North Carolina at Greensboro) offers a few tips to help parents prepare their child for that first day of school:

  • Take your child for a visit to the school before the first day of school. If you are planning to drop off and pick up your child, practice this procedure. Introduce your child to the teacher. Walk around the school. Find the cafeteria, office, classroom, art room, computer room, playground, etc.  (Try to arrange a tour of the school building or check if one will be given at kindergarten registration.)
  • Do a “practice” walk to the bus stop. Point out landmarks along the way. This is a good time to talk about safety issues (e.g., walk on sidewalks, stay seated until the bus stops, listen to bus drivers and crossing guards, etc.).
  • Establish a school-time schedule and ease into it over the two weeks or so before school begins.  Five- and six-year-olds need an average of 10 to 12 hours of sleep each night. You will need to take this into account when deciding on a good bedtime and wakeup time. Also consider how much time you and your child will need for bath time, bedtime routine, dressing, packing lunches, and getting supplies together.
  • Encourage your child to be more independent.  For example, being able to use the toilet independently, putting on a coat or sweater, tying his/her shoes, and putting away toys and school supplies.
  • Finally, talk about school in a positive way.  You can tell them what their day will be like while at school. Focus on all of the fun and exciting new things they will experience in kindergarten.  You may even want to read them some books about starting kindergarten.  Below is a list of children’s books which you can find at your local library or bookstore.
Preparing your child for kindergarten

The Berenstain Bears Go to School  (by Jan Berenstain and Stan Berenstain)

Chrysanthemum  (by Kevin Henkes)

Look Out Kindergarten, Here I Come!   (by Nancy L. Carlson)

Wemberly Worried (by Kevin Henkes)

Clifford’s First School Day (by Norman Bridwell)

Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten (by Joseph Slate)

This is an exciting time in your child’s life, soon to be full of so many new experiences and many new friends. Enjoy the excitement and listen carefully as your child tells you all of the things that happened during today at school–children love sharing all the neat things they’ve learned in school that day.  Enjoy this time– it only lasts a short while!