One minute your child is an infant and the next you are looking for kindergartens. The time goes quickly. Plan ahead. Here are nine ideas that may help with the transition.
- Do the screening early. When your child turns three years old, she can do the early childhood screening. You can wait until she is four or five, however,many districts recommend sending children when they are three. At the screening, her overall health and development, sight and hearing, vaccinations, and so on will be checked. In Minnesota, all children must legally undergo the screening prior to entering kindergarten. Check your school district for early childhood screening info.
- Stay enrolled in a high quality early childhood program like SonShine Learning Center. Children enrolled in a center that uses the Parent Aware standards or similar standards from another in-depth rating organization or accrediting body are much more likely to be successful in kindergarten and elementary school. Some very good unrated and unaccredited programs exist but they are rare and their quality is difficult to verify.
- Look for a school one year before starting. Plan to start looking for schools and scheduling tours at least one year before your child starts kindergarten. Some schools have waiting lists and others have registration deadlines and open houses scheduled many months before kindergarten starts.
- Change your routine in advance. If the routine in your household will change due to the new kindergarten schedule, consider changing the routine one month in advance so that the transition is less stressful for everyone. You can change bedtimes, meal times, quiet times, bath times, playtimes, screen times etc.
- Set realistic expectations. Instead of expecting everything to go smoothly the first few weeks, expect that they probably won’t. The bus, for example, may pick up late or early at first until everything is ironed out. If you expect a little chaos and things go really well you’ll give yourself the gift of being pleasantly surprised. You should expect that your child will be safe, but beyond that keep your expectations loose to start.
- Visit the school with your child. Spend some time at the school playground on nights or weekends if that’s an option. Bring your child to visit her classroom and meet her teacher, principal, and classmates prior to starting the school year.
- Read books. One of the most fun ways for children and adults to prep for the change is by reading about it. Check with your local librarian for book ideas or check out these recommendations from the National Association for the Education of Young Children:
- Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten, Joseph Slate (Illustrated by Ashley Wolff)
- Seven Little Mice Go to School, Kazuo Iwamura
- Pete the Cat: Rocking in My School Shoes, Eric Litwin (Illustrated by James Dean)
- Mom, It’s My First Day of Kindergarten, Hyewon Yum
- Yoko Learns to Read, Rosemary Wells
- Send important information… again. If your child has special needs or allergies send a note with him that includes pertinent information, even if you’ve already filled out the proper forms when you registered. Also, be sure to send your child with emergency contact information, her home address, parent’s phone numbers and email addresses even if the school already has them. It’s not likely they will be needed, but it’s easy enough to do and it could be helpful in an emergency especially during the first few weeks while the school is still settling into session.
- Check the backpack. Check your child’s backpack for notes from school each day especially the first few days and months. Create a folder for these notes to ensure their arrival.
Feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section if you have other ideas on what to do to prepare for kindergarten.
Author: Nate McCallister
Nate McCallister started with SonShine Learning Center in 2003 as a preschool teacher. Today, he works as the organization’s director of operations and is the site director at the Luther location. He earned a bachelor’s degree in technical communication and professional writing from Metropolitan State University and studied early childhood education at St. Paul College.