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Jan 20, 2018
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Academics: Kindergarten

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Take the “big and scary” out of kindergarten

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You can help your child make a smooth transition from home or preschool to kindergarten,” says Andrea Atkinson, a member of the National Association for the Education of Young Children whose members include teachers,   administrators, parents, policymakers, and others committed to bringing high-quality early education and care to all young children.

To help ease your child’s concerns about going to kindergarten, talk with him about some of the fun things that will happen at school, such as meeting new friends, listening to stories, and playing outside. “Kindergarten is a big name, a big place, and there are a lot of big kids,” adds Atkinson. “Be positive about the experience, but if your child has questions, answer them as honestly as you can. Try not to make a big to-do about it.”

Some of the most common questions children ask about kindergarten are, “Why can’t I stay at my old school?” or “Why can’t I stay at home?” Other questions might include, “What kind of toys will my kindergarten room have?” “Will there be time to play?” “Who is going to be in my class?”

It’s important for parents to take their child’s fears and anxieties seriously. Children need to know that they have support, that they can share their feelings and ask questions, and that someone is there to comfort them.

“My daughter was so nervous about starting kindergarten this year that I decided she needed to hear from someone close to her age about what really happens at school,” says the parent of a kindergartner. “The little girl who lives up the street is in first grade this year, so my daughter asked her about kindergarten and was able to get ‘real’ answers to her questions—and she felt much more confident and excited about going to school this year.”

Here are some tips designed to help ease the transition from home or preschool to kindergarten. Use your child’s questions and individual temperament as a gauge when deciding which and how many of the following suggestions to try before the big day. For particularly anxious children, too many pre-kindergarten activities may only increase their concerns.

young boy smiling and holding a notebook over his head

  • Visit your child’s new school. Because many schools are open during the summer, you should be able to call your child’s school now to arrange a visit or attend the school’s planned kindergarten orientations. When there, check out the kindergarten classrooms, the library, the cafeteria, and the playground. Point out the nurse’s office, the nearest bathrooms (if not located in the classrooms), the drinking fountain, the main office, and classrooms of older siblings or friends. “The summer is a great time to help acclimate your child to the new environment without the school being full of strangers,” says a parent of a soon-to-be kindergartner.
  • Prepare your child for getting to and from school. If your child will ride the bus, show her where she will be picked up and dropped off every day. Assure her that you or a caregiver will be there to meet her when she arrives home each day. If you will be picking your child up from school, find out where the school requires her to wait for you.
  • Make things simpler for your child. When preparing your children’s lunch or snack, store it in easy-to-open containers or sandwich bags so they don’t have to struggle at meal times. When choosing clothes for school, make sure they are kid-friendly. Jackets should be easy to put on and take off. Zippers should move easily. Pants and shorts should be easy to get out of and back into when using the restroom. Have your child wear shoes with buckles or Velcro closures if she is still learning to tie her shoes.
  • Establish a routine before school starts. It’s easier for children to ease into a new school-year bedtime, wake-up time, and breakfast time if they start to adjust their schedule before summer ends.

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