It’s almost time for the first day of Kindergarten. Eek! Kindergarten! How did time fly so quickly? What feels like just yesterday, I was changing diapers and trying to manage three toddlers at home. Godspeed, and now my youngest is off to kindergarten. Kindergarten is a huge milestone, and although I’d like time to slow down, I also know my youngest child is ready to dive all in. So here we are. Kindergarten, we’ve got this! And caregivers, I got you too. As a former kindergarten teacher and mom of three, this parent’s guide to kindergarten will help lead your way to a successful first day.
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How to prepare a child for the first day of Kindergarten.
I remember my first year as a kindergarten teacher. I was 21 years old (I know, I cannot believe it!) and more than ready to get started. Weeks before the doors opened, I wrote everyone’s name on perfectly laminated notecards and hot-glued a paper flower word wall in my classroom. I could not wait!
And then, the first day came.
A few children joyfully sat and got started, one screamed right out of the classroom, running after her dad, and another told me everyone was a “bit bored” before noon. Oy! I learned more on that first day about the range of emotions than I had in a lifetime.
This, plus 13 more years of classroom experience, leads me to this.
Prepare your child for the first day of kindergarten by allowing them to take the lead. In my home, one child loves chatting away and wondering what their classroom and friends will be like. My more nervous child may become anxious when mentioning it. Recognize your child’s interests and concerns to guide you as you prepare for the first day.
What to find in this parent’s guide
In this guide, I will share everything I’ve learned over the years toward a successful first day.
- Preregister your Kindergartener over summer vacation.
- Attend Open House.
- Read books to create conversation about school.
- Trust that the teacher will explain.
- Celebrate the first day of Kindergarten.
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Preregister your kindergartener
Registering your five or six-year-old will ensure that your child is placed in a Kindergarten classroom before the first day of school. A few team members at the school are working ahead of time, placing students into the classes.
Registering beforehand will ensure the teacher has your child’s name on their classroom roster before the first day.
PRO TIP: Does your child go by a name other than what is on their birth certificate? Send the school a note informing them so the teacher can write the correct name on the desk.
Remember, teachers write your child’s name 30-plus times before the first day of school if they are on their roster. This eliminates last-minute shuffling for both you and the kindergarten teacher.
When your child walks in for the first time, the teacher will expect them! Your child will also feel included by seeing their name on a coat hook, table, folder, and more.
Talk about the bathrooms
Open house usually occurs the week before the first day of school. If your school hosts an open house, it is critical for a smooth transition on the first day of school. And when you are there, talk about the bathrooms. This may calm any nerves about how to use the bathroom once at school.
If there is no open house this year, try finding a school map ahead of time or find a neighbor to talk with that is going in first to share their experience.
The open house allows your child to meet the teacher, visit the classroom, and walk the halls. Parents can also walk their children throughout the building.
What to seek out at the open house:
- Principal – share the principal’s name with your child
- Vice-principal – share the VP name with your child
- Custodial staff
- Main office
- Media center
Parents also take home lots of paperwork to complete on or after the open house. – Don’t say I didn’t warn you. It is more paperwork than the Dr. office.
This paperwork will help the teacher understand emergency contact information and some questions to understand your child better. These papers can be a drag to fill out, but they serve a great purpose!
An open house may also have the bus there for Kindergarten families. The AAP wrote an article about bullying on the school bus.
Read books about the first day of Kindergarten
Read books about the first day. This will give your child visuals and help prepare them for standard school procedures. A large part of Kindergarten is social interactions and making friends.
Below are a few of our favorite books to help generate conversations and minimize worries.
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Mae’s First Day of School
This is your book if you have a child reluctant to return to school. It helps them feel less alone, knowing other children are shy on the first day.
First Day Jitters
Your child’s teacher may have this one, so remind your child not to spoil the ending if they see it in the classroom. A funny twist to the ending. A must-read!
Spaghetti in a Hot Dog Bun
Another favorite! This book shares how to stick up for what you enjoy and help others in need. Five stars for Spaghetti in a Hot Dog Bun.
All Are Welcome
Another great read to welcome diversity and inclusion into any group setting. We like to read this book as we prepare for the first day of school.
The Pout-Pout Fish Goes to School
This is a fun book about the Pout-Pout Fish feeling discouraged until he finds the classroom that feels just right for learning.
But that’s not all! Here is my list of 40 books for back-to-school!
Trust that the teacher will explain it all.
I know; this sounds like an obvious one.
Yet as a mom with a rising Kindergartener, there will be a part of my day that I will spring up and worry I forgot to tell my child the snack was in their backpack or that the blue folder needs to go on the teacher’s desk.
I must remind myself that teachers have it covered. They are great at what they do!
The first week of school is about routines, supplies, and what to expect. You will be surprised how quickly five and six-year-olds catch on to the new routine. Children also play the fun first-day of-school activities to get to know their new friends.
Your confidence in the teacher will help your child feel secure as you drop them off. It’s helpful to refer to the teacher by name and learn the names of their classmates. – Your child will enjoy feeling like you are both in this together.
Say goodbye at the door and assure your child that you will be back when the school day is over. Do not sneak out. This may cause more anxiety. Allow the teacher to gently guide your child to their seat as you wave or blow a kiss goodbye.
Most children adjust quickly once their parents leave.
If you feel anxious about this step, leave your email or phone number on a sticky note on the teacher’s desk. If things haven’t calmed down, ask them to send you a quick message.
This first day of school can be a big day for both the child and the parent! It’s okay if you also want to have a good cry in your car.
The first day of school may feel difficult and different, but soon, you will be headed in as a mystery reader, and I have the best Kindergarten read-aloud here to get you started!
Celebrate the First Day
My sister-in-law sends her children off on their first day in the sweetest way. She cuts a watermelon into the letter of the grade they are going into and decorates special wooden letters for them to hold. You can see them beaming with pride.
Another friend plays a board game after school with her kindergartener to welcome him home.
Think about the send-off that feels right for your family. It does not have to be large to do! Simple is best.
We can also celebrate the first day of school with a sign. Here is the sign and marker we bought for the first day of school.
First Day of School Board
Use this board for years with liquid chalk markers.
Liquid Chalk Markers
I love everything, Arteza, and these chalk markers do not disappoint. Excellent quality and vibrant colors.
What to pack on the first day of kindergarten
Ah! You’ve made it this far on the parent’s guide to kindergarten, I need to leave you with a few final thoughts.
This is a great time to role-play how to open home food containers and water bottles. Just like in the classroom, cafeteria helpers assist our kindergarteners. Share with your child, so they can raise thier hands for help when needed.
Most likely, your child will need to include these items or have these items in their backpack:
- Emergency contact information on the backpack
- Label backpack, lunchbox, and accessories
- Paperwork from open house
- School supplies
- Water bottle
Hooray! Kindergarten, here we come. We are ready!
Big Kid Activity Cards
Because our big kids crave hands-on learning too!
20 hands-on activities for ages 5.5-8 years old. More than half of the ideas inside this pack will be kept exclusively for cardholders! This means you will never find most ideas here on our blog.
If your child has a food allergy, discuss starting a 504 plan before the first day with the school. This will help everyone understand how your child will be treated in the case of an emergency.
Children will build upon concepts they learned in preschool and will likely be put into homogeneous groups based on their strengths and weaknesses. Greet the teacher with an open mind and appreciation to build communication on how you can help your child at home.
Each school has its homework policy. If your child struggles at home, reach out to the teacher and see what accommodations can be made.