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How to Prepare Children for Kindergarten

preparing your little ones for kindergarten

How do you best prepare a child to go to their first day of school? It’s a day you will long remember and certainly a big step, but with a little preparation, you will both be on your way to a great day. Each child and parent has their own special personality and how they might react may vary depending on a variety of factors, but following these four simple steps can set the stage for a smooth transition for everyone.

Prepare In Advance

Is this a brand new school experience for your child? Or Is your child familiar with the school because they have a sibling in an older grade? If it’s a new school experience,  it would be helpful to spend some time at the school before school starts. During the summer, take a walk to school and plan a play date on the school playground. You can also look at the school’s website and see when they might offer community events like a book sale or food donation drive. The more your child gets exposed to the school, the better prepared they’ll be for the first day.   If however your child is going to a familiar school, you can begin talking about their school early and discuss some familiar themes.  For example “Do you remember when your brother went to school last year?  We will be walking the same way, but this year you’ll have your very own back pack and a new teacher to meet.” Another helpful tip is to create a “Countdown” Calendar two weeks before school starts.  Each day your child can mark off the days left until school starts. This can be a crafty project and kids love visuals and reminders of what to expect.

preparing children for kindergarten

Create a Family Schedule

Do you have a daily and weekly schedule for your family?  A family schedule is great way to create a visual reminder of what members in a family do in the morning before school. Set aside some time with your family and create the schedule together. This family schedule might include a wake up time, getting dressed, making their bed, homework, and after school activities.  Start incorporating some of these schedule changes 1-2 weeks before the official first day.  Some additional schedule starters might be to practice packing lunches, role playing and have them go to bed and wake up as they would when they start school. All of which create consistent, expectations and not a lot of surprises, which can help with the transition.IMG_20120905_075226

Listen To their Feelings

Listening and validating are two very important gifts you can give your child as they prepare for kindergarten. As your child begins school, give them some extra listening time and attention (and hugs too).  When they share the good (and bad), just be there and validate in a way to encourages them and fosters independence.  For example, if your child starts to talk about a fear or disappointment, listen, reflect and then ask questions that would empower them.  Children are remarkably able to find positive solutions, if they have encouragement and a good sounding board.

friendships for kindergarten

Offer Opportunities for Social Connections and Independence

Lastly, offer your child opportunities for positive social connections and independence.  Entering Kindergarten can be a great place to foster these qualities.  For example, if you know of any friends or neighbors going to the same school, schedule play dates or summer outings before school starts or plan to walk together the first week of school. Some additional ideas might be to ask your child to help you pack their lunch or encourage them to pick out their own school supplies and outfits.  By offering your child these opportunities you are fostering emotional resilience, self confidence and social relationships all which can be very beneficial in helping your child  succeed in their first year of kindergarten.

Going back to school can be a transition for everyone, but mindful preparation can help make the path a little easier.

Sandee Bandettini, MS, MFT is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist that lives in Orange County, CA. Sandee Bandettini, MS, MFT is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist that lives in Orange County, CA. Sandee offers individuals and nonprofit organizations resources to live healthy and happy lives. In her free time, Sandee enjoys her family, fitness and volunteering. For additional information, please see
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