Pepping Your Child (and YOU!) for the First Day of Kindergarten

posted: 08/02/16
by: Katie Morton
kids on a bus

Sending your child off to the first day of kindergarten is a rite of passage. Watching your small child climb onto the enormous yellow school bus for the first time is a moment that you'll never forget.

This first step toward independence may trigger some anxieties--and that's perfectly natural! Here are some prep tips to help you and your brand-new kindergartener have an amazing first day at school.

1. Prepare Ahead of Time

Small children are schedule-craving creatures. Young children are far more relaxed when they have some idea of what their schedule will look like.

Share with your child the time that the bus arrives, when lunch will be, and what time the bus will bring them home. Simply knowing sequentially what comes next will help calm their nerves.

2. Do a Dry Run

Parenting experts recommend a dry run to alleviate fears. You can make an appointment to visit the school, so your child can learn the way to their classroom and meet their new teacher. If you're not able to make an appointment, many school districts offer kindergarten orientations. Check the school's website for these programs and make it a point to attend together.

3. Make Friends Ahead of Time

One of the scariest parts of any new school is the sea of unknown faces. Your child may have anxiety about meeting new people, especially if they are shy or if kindergarten is their first formal school experience.

Having just one new friend before the school bell rings on the first day can go a long way. If you can, meet up with a child (or even better--children!) who will be in the same classroom. By setting up a pre-first day lunch or play date, you increase the odds that your child will have a friend on that overwhelming first day.

4. Make Prep Fun

Prepping for the first day of kindergarten can be a wonderful bonding experience for both of you. Set aside a special "parent and child" shopping day to pick out a cute lunchbox, colorful school supplies, and an adorable new outfit.

While you may have your own Pinterest-worthy thoughts on what your child should wear on the first day, let them call the shots on their own fashion. Allowing them a sense of autonomy will make them feel grown-up and excited to show off their new style.

Regarding school supplies, most schools provide a list approximately one month ahead of time so that you can hit the stores for exactly what your young scholar needs. Do stick to the list, but also let your child pick out their unique favorite kind of pencils or colorful supplies to express their creativity.

5. Read Books and Talk About Feelings

When children are nervous about any new situation, it can be helpful for them to discuss their feelings with a parent. One of the best ways to open the floor for discussion is by reading an age-appropriate book about what to expect.

Check out these kid-friendly titles about prepping for school:

  1. Will I Have a Friend? by Miriam Cohen
  2. The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn
  3. Leo the Late Bloomer by Robert Kraus
  4. Franklin Goes to School by Paulette Bourgeois

6. Stay Positive

It's perfectly fine to find yourself a tad emotional on the first day -- this is a huge step for your little one, and you may shed a tear or two. That said, children do pick up on their parents' feelings and may internalize any negative statements.

Do your best to convey excitement and positivity on the first day. Keep your first goodbye brief and reassuring. A hug and a simple, "Have a great day! I'll see you later!" is all you need to send them off.

Some children may display signs of separation anxiety at the classroom door. If this happens to your child, allow the teacher to take the lead. He or she will guide you on how long to stay and when to make a graceful exit. Teachers are the pros and they've dealt with this before, so allow them to help with the transition and set the tone.

The first day of kindergarten can be exciting, scary, overwhelming, and wonderful--all rolled into one. With our prep tips and a positive attitude, your child will be the one racing up the steps of the school bus, thrilled to embark on this new adventure.