by Katie DeGuglielmo
Katie DeGuglielmo, Jumpstart’s former National Program Coordinator, shares our top tips to help both parents and children get ready for the first day of kindergarten.
Whether you are getting your little one ready for the first day, or the first day of kindergarten was a few weeks ago, Jumpstart’s top kindergarten readiness tips should help you both feel ready to successfully kick off your year!
1. Build a relationship with the teacher
Your child’s kindergarten teacher is going to be an important caregiver and educator for the next school year. It’s important to build a close and trusting relationship. Introduce yourself in person as soon as possible and spend some time getting to know each other. Share information about your family and about your kindergartener to help the teacher know how to include your child in the classroom. It can be helpful for teachers to know what languages are spoken at home, who the important people are at home, and what your child’s interests are. Call, send notes, or email regularly with your child’s teacher so that you can share exciting news about your kindergartener.
2. Visit school together
Kindergarten is such a new experience for children! It can help you and your child feel more comfortable if you can visit the school before the first day. Take a look at the classroom and talk about the different areas like circle time space, reading area, cubbies or backpack hooks, and play spaces. Show your child bathrooms and water fountains, outdoor play spaces, the school library, and where lunch will be eaten. Do a walkthrough together of the routine for the first day so that your child knows what to expect. If it’s possible, introduce your child to the kindergarten teacher.
3. Aim for self-sufficiency
Depending on prior experiences, children may need to be more independent than usual on their first day of kindergarten. There are some tasks that you’ll want to ensure your child can do on his or her own, like tying shoes, using the bathroom and fastening buttons or belts, and putting on jackets or backpacks. Help your child practice recognizing his or her name so that finding cubbies and other classroom items is smooth. Last, make sure your child knows the name of the kindergarten teacher. This will allow other adults to help your kindergartener find the right classroom!
4. Show your child that school matters
Your child will feel excited about kindergarten if you show that kindergarten and school is important to you. In your home set up a space to store backpacks and school supplies. Display your child’s school work at home to show the pride you take in your child’s growing abilities. Ask your child about school on a daily basis – who did they read with, what games were played, what songs did they sing? Listen to the important stories children bring home from kindergarten. Talk with the kindergarten teacher to learn about classroom activities and your child’s participation. All of these things will show your child that school matters.
5. Practice reading every day
Kindergarten prepares children for academic success, and one important kindergarten activity is reading. In kindergarten, your child will read (with support) every day. You can help your child become a confident reader by reading together at home daily. Talk about characters and lessons learned from books. Let your child take more control in reading by turning pages, pointing to the title of the book, and retelling some favorite parts of familiar stories. For the first day, help your child choose a favorite book to bring to the classroom. The teacher will be thrilled to meet a child who is already an enthusiastic reader!
For those feeling very prepared, here’s a bonus tip: read Joseph Slate’s Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten. The story shows how Miss Bindergarten prepares her classroom for a new group of kindergarteners, meanwhile 26 kindergarteners make their way to the first day. The illustrations will help children learn what to look for in their classrooms. You can have conversations about common kindergarten activities such as reading, taking care of the class pets, painting, and snack time. Watching the kindergarteners in the story get ready will show how children can get ready the morning of the first day too!
We wish all new kindergarteners a wonderful first day and a successful year!