Tips for the First Day of Kindergarten

It’s time! Your little one is starting Kindergarten! This momentous occasion can be a cause for excitement, as well as nervousness. Let’s be honest, it will be as hard on you as it will be on the kids. But you also know that by week two, for most, it will all be as easy as ABC. You just have to get through the first few drop-offs without it becoming a dreaded event. With a little planning and a little practice you can make sure the first week, and particularly the first day, of Kindergarten goes just right. When you pick them up, you will see that everything was just fine. You can go get a special treat and they can tell you all about it.

Here are six great tips to help you and your little one soar through those first few days!

Tip #1

Visit and Advocate!

The more familiar your child is with the school, the classroom, and the teachers, the easier it will be on the big day. Plan a visit to the school.  It’s important for you to meet the teachers and staff. Plus, it will help your child know what to expect! If your child has specific learning or physical needs be familiar with the resources the school offers. Meet the people who will be on your child’s team.  Teach your child to speak up and communicate how they feel to their teacher(s) and identified adults.

Tip #2

Be Early!

We can’t stress this enough. The first kids there will have the room to themselves and extra time with the teachers. It is a lot easier to get comfortable with only a few other kids and adults around than it will be when the room is full. Also, there will be tears. If it is not your child, it will be another one and tears beget tears. Seeing other kids lose their cool may add to the anxiety. Getting there before the crowd does help. By the way, you might have a tear or two as well, mom or dad. Try to keep your cool until you get outside.

Tip #3

Agree to a drop off protocol!

You can’t talk about drop-off enough before it happens, starting weeks in advance. Walk your child through the drop off plan and agree to the protocol. One hug, one kiss, and one high-five, and then through the door. Have your child agree to it and repeat it a few times on the way in. Then, most importantly, stick to it! The longer you draw out the transition at the door, the harder it is on everyone. The teachers will tell you, once you are out of the picture, most kids settle down and engage in the classroom activities. They can’t do this with you hanging around. Be strong. They will be just fine.

If it helps, visualizing and talking through what school will be like helps to draw out any fears your child may have and help set them up for success.  

Before the first day:

  • Grab some crayons and draw it out. Ask your child questions about their school expectations and have them draw their answers,
    • What do you think Kindergarten will be like?
    • What will it look like when you walk through the doors and meet your teacher and classmates?  
    • How will you feel at the beginning of the day, the middle of the day, and at the end of your very first day?  
  • Have your child go through the first day step by step.  
  • You can also do a role playing game to talk and walk through school expectations and routines.
  • Avoid sugar in the morning! You don’t need them getting too excited or crashing at just the wrong moment.

After the first day:

  • At the end of the day, you can have your child write or draw a postcard to a favorite family member describing their favorite moment from their first day.
  • Ask your child to go through their day step by step:
    • What did you do first?
    • What is something you learned today?
    • Who did you eat with?
    • What did you create today?
    • What will you do tomorrow?

Tip # 4

Secure attachments!

Ensuring your child has secure attachments when they enter school helps to build their self-esteem, lower stress levels, increase school performance as well as helps to maintain positive relationships. Being responsive to your child’s needs and dependencies go a long way!

  • Develop a good-bye routine or ritual for the morning- the sillier the better!
  • Bring a familiar object or picture from home. Your child can keep it in their cubby, or with the teacher’s permission, at their desk.  
  • If larger items are not allowed, consider little objects which can be kept in pockets or pinned inside clothing or onto their backpack and touched for reassurance as needed. This can help provide your child with a sense of familiarity and comfort.   
  • Schedule playdates with members of your child’s classroom as you’re able. They can serve as a “Welcome Buddy” in the mornings.  A new best friend can be a compelling reason to want to go back to school tomorrow. A familiar face can go a long way.
  • Don’t sweat the clothes, the lunchbox, or anything else they take issue with. It’s hard to know exactly what kids are nervous about and they might tell you. Shoes that they can’t tie themselves, for example, might be a source of anxiety, or a water bottle they can’t open. If they refuse to wear, eat, pack, or do something, let it go.

Tip #5

Practice with Workbooks & Apps!

Explore these resources and materials with your child to help prepare them for the academic skills they will need in Kindergarten. Choose the resource and level which is most appropriate for your child’s current academic levels.

Tip #6

Explore these books!

Before the first day, introduce into your daily reading routine picture books covering different aspects of the first day of school.  

Here are some favorites (including some characters which may already be familiar to your child):

Congratulations and wishing you and your child the best on their first day!

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