Transitioning to kindergarten: tips for families to smooth the way

A great start to the school year begins by establishing routines and having conversations with your child early.

Do you have a child entering kindergarten this fall? If so, there are steps you can take to make the transition to school easier for your child and yourself.

Talk about every aspect of attending school: What questions does your child have? Expect the unexpected; as a former preschool teacher I was asked more than once, “Is there a bathroom at the big school?” and, “How does the bus driver know where I live?” You never know what a child may be thinking and by simply asking if they have questions about kindergarten can start a conversation that may keep resurfacing over a couple of days.  Alleviating worries now will help your child feel more comfortable when that first day arrives.     

Starting important routines: With a month left of summer you’ve got time to start important routines. Begin sending kids to bed a little earlier every few days until they reach school bedtimes. You can access The National Sleep Foundation for more information on how much sleep children need and how sleep influences school performance.

Other routines to practice include finding backpacks and laying out clothes. According to the Center on the Social Emotional Foundations for Early Childhood, routines can actually influence a child’s emotional, cognitive and social development, help children feel secure, understand expectations, reduce behavior problems and may result in higher rates of child engagement. Routines are important.

How are you feeling about this transition? Maybe you discovered who the teacher will be and you’re disappointed. Are you concerned about the bus ride? If you feel anxious about this event, your child will pick up on your anxiety and begin to feel the same way. Ask yourself why you have these feelings; are you having misgivings that your child is ready? The National Association for the Education of Young Children has terrific information to put your mind at ease. Watch your emotions as you tell your child goodbye on that first morning, be encouraging and positive and hold back any tears until you are no longer with your child.

Resources to help make the transition

Visit your local library for the following books that cover a variety of kindergarten topics. Reading one or more of these books with your child is an opportunity for conversations about attending school. If your library does not have a particular book generally they can borrow from another library, you just need to ask.

  • “Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten,”  by Joseph Slate
  • “Pete the Cat:  Rocking in my school shoes,” by Eric Litwin    
  • “The Berenstain Bears go to School,” by Stan Berenstain and Jan Berenstain
  • “The Kissing Hand,” by Audrey Penn
  • “The Night Before Kindergarten,” by Natasha Wing
  • “Welcome to Kindergarten,” by Anne Rockwell
  • “I am too Absolutely Small for School,” by Lauren Child (Charlie and Lola book)         

Entering kindergarten is a big milestone; by establishing routines, reading books about kindergarten, holding conversations and answering questions your kindergartener will be feeling confident when taking that giant step onto the bus or walking through those front doors at the “big school” and you’ll know you’ve sent a child who is ready to experience the wonders of learning.

Michigan State University Extension has many resources for families regarding children’s social-emotional health as well as aspects of child development. Contact your county Extension office or explore the website for more details.

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