Sending your little one off to school for the first time? Keep reading for 5 important tips to help them have an amazing first day of kindergarten!
THE FIRST DAY OF KINDERGARTEN
Starting kindergarten can be really overwhelming for our little ones (and for us!), especially if it’s their first time away from family.
Whether they’re feeling confident to start, or anxious & unsure, making the transition from summer mode into first-day-of-kindergarten mode requires prep work that needs to be done ahead of time.
Trust me…taking the time to prepare over the summer will make the first day of school run seamlessly!
Keep reading for 5 tips to help your new kindergartener have the BEST first day of school possible! These tips come from the experts (kindergarten teachers & moms!) and will help your little one have a smooth transition to school.
1. READ LOTS OF BOOKS
Anytime there’s a big transition coming up for my kids, my favorite thing to do is read books about that transition.
Going to the doctor or dentist? There’s a book for that.
Flying on an airplane for the first time? There’s a book for that.
Getting a new baby sibling? There’s a book for that, too!
Yep, it’s simple, but it works!
I find that reading books helps my kids:
- Have a better understanding about what to expect
- Open up & ask questions (a good book can spark a great discussion!)
- Create warm memories of being snuggled up together (which is always a plus!)
Now’s the time to request those first day of kindergarten books from your local library & put them into your reading rotation. That way, your little one will read them many times before the first day of school.
2. ESTABLISH ROUTINES
It’s no surprise that kids thrive off routines. Routines help them feel confident & secure in their environment, and they eliminate many struggles & arguments since kids know what to expect. (Most adults thrive off routines, too!)
In order to have a great first day of kindergarten, you’ll want to establish good routines WAY before that first day.
There are many different types of routines you’ll want to think about establishing starting in the summer. Here are some of the most important:
Many of us let our kids stay up later/sleep in during the summer, which is great!
But now’s the time to start walking bedtime back so kids will be at their ideal bedtime when school starts.
You’re not going to want to drastically move bedtime up the night before school starts…I promise that won’t end well.
And you’re not going to want them to be sleepy, cranky, or irritable that first week of school because they’re overtired.
They’re already going to be emotional, let’s not add overtired to the mix!
So now’s the time to make a plan.
Here’s the schedule my daughter made for herself the summer before she went into 3rd grade. It worked out to move bedtime back by 5 minutes every 3 days to get to her ideal bedtime by the end of July. And since she helped create this schedule, she was totally on board with it!
Sit down with your little one & create a routine that works for you so they’re at their ideal bedtime at least a week before the first day of school.
You can also start waking them up in the morning at the time they’ll need to be up for school to get them into the habit.
Do you know how long your little one’s lunch period is going to be?
I know it’s different for every school, but when my daughter went to kindergarten, she only had 20 minutes to eat and 20 minutes to play.
20 minutes is not a long time to eat!
The kindergarteners were also supposed to stay in their seats at lunch and raise their hands if they needed something opened.
Well you can imagine in a room filled with kids, the lunch monitors can’t get to everyone right away…
That means it’s SO important for little ones to know how to open their own lunchbox/juice box/water bottle/food bags so they don’t have to wait for someone to open it for them.
If possible, serve your little one lunch in their lunchbox starting now so they can practice & get comfortable being more independent at lunchtime.
You can also set a timer so they get used to eating in the allotted time for lunch.
But just know, even if you practice this, they probably still won’t eat everything in their lunch because they’ll be so distracted by their friends & all the excitement in the lunchroom, so make sure you have an after-school snack ready to go.
Another important tip is to make sure they know the difference between their snack & their lunch. Many schools require these be sent in two separate containers because they are stored in different parts of the classroom (which helps eliminate any confusion). You don’t want your little one eating their whole lunch at snack time or their snack at lunch time!
Oh, and one more thing…if they take a water bottle to school, teach them how to open it/refill it too. This is another important skill so they stay hydrated all day.
Another routine you can work on before the first day of kindergarten (and arguably the most important!) is using the bathroom independently.
It’s SO important new kindergarteners are able to use the bathroom, wipe properly, and wash their hands properly all on their own.
It’s also important that they can pull up their own underwear/shorts/skirts/pants, button them, zip them, etc.
My advice…skip the trendy clothes with lots of buckles & buttons, and focus on clothes that are easy to take on/off that your little one can manage independently (and no belts!)
Oh, and while you’re thinking about clothes–don’t forget to choose shoes that your little one can take off/put on independently, too.
Most kids will dump out their shoes after playing on the playground (they get filled with sand or woodchips so easily!), and teachers don’t always have time to help with this.
Make sure the shoes your little one wears to school are the right choice for them because they’re comfortable, easy to take off/put on, and won’t cause blisters.
You’ll also want to establish a morning routine before the first day of school if you don’t have one already.
That way, your little one will know exactly what jobs need to be done in order to leave on time.
A typical morning routine will include things like:
- Brush Teeth
- Get Dressed
- Use the Bathroom
- Make the Bed
A few days before school starts, you can practice the routine you’ve established so your little one feels comfortable with what’s expected of them. You might even consider doing a test drive to the school & role playing the first day!
Similar to a morning routine, you’re going to want to create a “goodbye” routine so your little one knows what to expect at drop-off.
- How many hugs and kisses will you give?
- Will you park and walk them to their classroom?
- Does your school require you to use the the parent drop-off lane and not leave your car?
- Will they be taking the bus or carpooling with a neighbor?
Talk about this before you get to school so your little one knows exactly what to expect each day. You can practice this and role play what it will be like!
As part of your goodbye routine each morning, keep these tips in mind:
- Don’t Sneak Out:
- No matter how tempting it is (and if they’re happily playing, it might be super tempting!), please don’t sneak out after you drop them off. That only teaches them to think that important adults in their life disappear. Even if saying goodbye leads to tears, make sure they know you’re leaving. It’ll be much better for them in the long run!
- Don’t Linger:
- On the opposite end of the spectrum, it’s not beneficial to linger after drop-off. It’s SO tempting to linger (believe me, I know!) But the best thing you can do for your child is to leave quickly, especially if they’re crying or upset. Having you right outside in the hallway will prolong the meltdown. Once you head out, trust that your child is in good hands with the teacher & you’ll get a call if they need you.
3. PREP THE DAY BEFORE
If you want the morning of the first day of kindergarten to run smoothly (and every school morning after that!), preparing the night before is key.
Some ideas for what you can do the day before:
- Pack lunches & snacks
- Lay out clothes & shoes (so there aren’t any arguments about what to wear)
- Pack backpacks & leave them by the door
- Take those precious “First Day of School” pictures the day before so you’re not stressed out the morning of (no one will ever know the difference!)
Prepping the day before will help lead to calmer, more peaceful morning for all of you (which is exactly what you’ll want!)
4. BREAKFAST TRADITION
Do you have a fun first day of school breakfast tradition with your family?
I LOVE making the first day extra special with a unique breakfast to set the tone for the rest of the day!
In our family, we like to make Waffle Ice Cream. It’s simple enough for a school morning (it only takes a few extra minutes), yet seems “fancy” to my kids! Win win!
If you decide you’d like to start a first day of school breakfast tradition, here are a few tips:
- Think about what you can realistically make on a busy school morning…this isn’t the time for a breakfast that will take hours to prep & clean up.
- Whatever you choose, make sure your little one will actually eat it…you don’t want to try something they’re unfamiliar with, only to have them refuse to eat it. Stick with variations of tried & true favorites.
- Make sure it’s filling! School takes a lot of mental & physical energy, and they’re going to need all the fuel they can get in the morning.
5. BE READY FOR EMOTIONS
Let’s face it, even if you do ALL the things to prepare, the first day of kindergarten is going to be super emotional…for our kids AND for us!
Your child may walk into class with confidence, or they may cling to you in the hallway. You just never know how they’ll do!
If your little one is having a hard time saying goodbye, you can send them with a special reminder of home, like a picture or small item, that can be looked at or touched when they’re feeling sad or anxious.
And if your little one doesn’t cry in the morning, they still might have a meltdown after school (which is normal…they keep it together all day in school, so they tend to let loose at home where they feel safe.)
No matter what kind of day your new kindergartner has, YOU’RE probably going to be feeling really emotional. It’s something you can mentally prepare for beforehand so you’re not surprised to find yourself crying in your car after drop-off (I’ve been there!)
CHEERS TO A GREAT KINDERGARTEN YEAR!
I hope these first day of kindergarten tips are helpful and that all of your little ones have a wonderful experience learning, playing, & growing at school this year!
You’ve done all you can to prepare them for school in these first five years of their life…now you get to watch all that hard work pay off as they thrive in kindergarten! It’s the absolute best year of school & I’m so excited for you to enjoy it!
Have any other tips to add to the list? Comment below or find me on Instagram [@littleslovelearningblog] to share!