Welcome to our Kindergarten Readiness blog series, a 5-part series that covers the most important kindergarten readiness topics. This week’s topic is all about Parent Readiness for Kindergarten.
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KINDERGARTEN READINESS TOPICS
Check out the other topics in this Kindergarten Readiness blog series:
- Kindergarten Readiness Overview
- Language & Literacy
- Social Emotional
- Approaches to Learning
- Parent Readiness (You are here)
You can also check out my Kindergarten Readiness eBook for a printable version of this information.
KINDERGARTEN READINESS: PARENT READINESS
When my daughter started kindergarten in 2018, I thought I knew what to expect. After all, I was a teacher for many years before she was born.
I knew what it meant to be a kindergarten parent, right?
Being a first-time kindergarten parent is a whole new experience!
Even if your child attended preschool, there’s something very unique about being a kindergarten parent for the first time.
Below are some tips from someone who’s experienced this transition first-hand. Hopefully these ideas will help you feel confident that YOU’RE kindergarten ready, not just your child.
These Parent Readiness tips can be broken up into 5 different categories:
- Questions to Ask
- Shopping List
- Ways to Prepare at Home
- The First Day
- What to Expect the Rest of the Year
1. QUESTIONS TO ASK
First time kindergarten parents usually have a LOT of questions about the new school, teacher, and schedule. But sometimes, parents don’t even know what questions to ask since they have no experience with kindergarten. And that’s okay!
Here are some questions you might want to ask your child’s new school & teacher (once your child is assigned a teacher). You might be able to find a lot of this information just from looking at the school or district website.
*If your school has a back-to-school night, they’re likely going to cover this information then! So keep these in the back of your mind for now.
GENERAL SCHOOL QUESTIONS
- Where is the school calendar?
- You should print this out and put it on your refrigerator. It will tell you about days off, vacations, early release days, etc.
- What time is the first bell? What time is the tardy bell?
- What is the drop-off/pick-up routine?
- What programs do you offer before-school and after-school?
- What is the bus schedule?
- What extra services do you provide? (Gifted, Speech Therapy, Intervention, etc)
- Do you offer breakfast or lunch? Where is the menu? What is the cost?
- How often are grades sent home to parents?
- How often are there parent-teacher conferences?
- How can I get involved with the parent-teacher organization?
- Where is the school handbook?
- Once you get this, make sure you read it so you understand the rules.
CLASSROOM TEACHER QUESTIONS
- How many kids are in your class?
- What is the basic schedule for the day?
- What time do the kids eat lunch? Snack? How long is each? Where are lunches and snacks stored during the day?
- Where do the kids eat?
- What is the schedule for specials? (P.E., art, computers, library, music, etc.)
- Print this schedule out and put it on your refrigerator.
- What is the bathroom routine?
- How often do kids wash their hands or use hand sanitizer?
- Do you have any volunteer opportunities in the classroom? Outside of the classroom?
- How are birthdays celebrated in your classroom?
- What is your homework schedule?
- What is your philosophy of teaching reading?
- Words to look out for are “balanced literacy” or “whole language.” Those are outdated and disproven approaches to teaching reading.
- Ask if they’ve heard of the “Science of Reading” or “structured literacy.”
2. SHOPPING LIST
Many schools provide a recommended shopping list for back-to-school shopping, such as what size backpack to get, what school supplies are recommended, and so on. My advice is to wait to go back-to-school shopping until you’ve cleared it with the school.
Once you get the supply list, here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- If your child can bring a backpack, let them pick it out, but make sure it has pockets on the outside for their water bottle.
- Trust me, you don’t want a water bottle to open up inside the backpack. It’s a mess!
- Speaking of water bottles…make sure you pick one they can open and close on their own to refill throughout the day.
- My kids use Hydro Flasks and they’ve lasted for years.
- Get a good lunchbox and practice opening and closing it, such as a Bentgo box.
- Invest in a set of durable labels.
- You will need to label EVERYTHING that goes to school, including backpacks, water bottles, lunch boxes, hats, balls, jackets, etc.
- We love Mabel’s Labels because they never come off (not even in the washing machine or dishwasher!)
- Make sure they have a good pair of tennis shoes they can put on by themselves.
- If they can’t tie shoes yet, send them with velcro shoes or slip-ons.
- If they wear tennis shoes every day, you won’t have to worry about which day is PE. Win win!
- Consider a hat for recess.
- Choose clothing that is “easy on, easy off”.
- Choose pants with elastic waistbands (not zippers, snaps, or overalls) and avoid belts.
- If your school dress code requires a belt, make sure to help them practice with it over the summer.
3. WAYS TO PREPARE AT HOME
Now that summer is here, you have a few months to prepare for the back-to-school craziness! Here are a few things to keep in mind as you get ready for the big day.
- Have your child practice saying their full name, your full name, their phone number, and address (and maybe even your email address!) for safety reasons.
- Make sure they can use the bathroom & wash their hands by themselves.
- And make sure they can use a tissue by themselves, too!
- Establish routines before the first day. Introduce an earlier bedtime several weeks before school starts.
- If your child is still napping, start wearing them off those naps (unless your kindergarten has nap time, which seems to be pretty rare these days).
- Practice the morning routine of dressing and eating breakfast.
- Using a checklist can make things easier. Here’s an editable one I made that might help.
- Give them opportunities to be responsible for their stuff now so they can be responsible for their stuff in the classroom. A few ideas include:
- Clearing their dishes from the table after meals.
- Carrying their own water bottle to and from the car.
- Cleaning up the blocks before bedtime.
- Putting their puzzles away.
- Throwing away their own trash.
- Review several times with your child how they will get to and from school, and maybe even drive that route to help them get familiar with it.
- Help your child develop strategies to resolve peer conflicts and to know when to ask an adult for help.
- This is a great opportunity for role playing! If you practice now, your child will be prepared once school starts and conflicts happen (because they will).
- Help your child practice saying, “What are you playing?” instead of “Can I play?” if they see a group of kids playing. This will help them make friends more easily.
- If possible, organize summer playdates with other incoming kindergarteners. This is great for your child (and you!) to make connections.
- Make a storage plan for all of the papers/artwork that will come home (and believe me, it’s going to be A LOT!)
- Clear out a space for all of this now so you’re prepared when school starts. The papers pile up fast!
4. THE FIRST DAY
Once the big day is here, emotions will be running high for everyone! Here are a few tips to keep in mind so the day goes smoothly:
- Take those precious “First Day of School” pictures the day before. This will help take some stress away the morning of and no one will ever know the difference!
- Plan for extra time that morning. You’ll want to make sure you get to school early so your child can adjust without feeling rushed.
- Plan a filling breakfast and lunch for that day.
- If you want to start a fun back-to-school breakfast tradition, just remember:
- Choose something they will actually eat (now’s not the time to introduce new foods they might not like)
- Choose something that will fill them up
- Choose something that won’t take too long to make since you don’t want to be late to school
- If you want to start a fun back-to-school breakfast tradition, just remember:
- Be prepared for an emotional morning for BOTH of you!
- Your child may walk into class with confidence, or they may cling to you in the hallways. Either way, you’re probably going to be feeling really emotional. It’s something you can prepare for and talk with your child about beforehand.
- Be ready for a quick kiss, hug, and then head out the door.
- It’s SO tempting to linger on the first day of school (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. But once you head out, trust that your child is in good hands and their teacher will take good care of them.
- Even if your child doesn’t have a meltdown before school, be aware meltdowns might happen AFTER school (on the first day and every day for the first few weeks.)
- Our kids hold it together ALL day in school, so it’s common for them to let their emotions loose when they’re with their parents (because they feel so safe).
- It’s totally normal, but I wanted you to know so you can be prepared.
- Oh, and don’t worry about any “first day of school” gifts for the teacher. Consider instead donating school supplies or tissue boxes in October when supplies start to dwindle.
- You can also check out this blog post that goes into more detail about the first day of kindergarten.
5. WHAT TO EXPECT THE REST OF THE YEAR
After the big event of the first day of school, you still have 179 more days to go! Here are some things you can expect the rest of the year:
- In the first few months, consider limiting extracurricular activities while your child adjusts to the school routines.
- They’re already going to be exhausted from school, so they might need less activities.
- You’ll also want to make sure your child has time for unstructured play after school and on the weekends. Free play is so important!
- Don’t expect your child to eat everything in their lunch or snack.
- They usually have a VERY short time to eat, and they might be distracted by all the happenings in the lunchroom.
- Make sure you have a snack ready for them after-school (or pack one for their after-school program).
- Let your child pack their backpack, put in their water bottle, put their homework in their folder, etc.
- The sooner you can help them take responsibility for their belongings, the better!
- Promote an attitude of respect for rights and properties of others.
- Kindergarten is very different from preschool.
- The days are longer, the class sizes are bigger, and you might not feel as connected to the teacher/school as you did to their preschool.
- You’ll want to work with your child on advocating for their needs when you’re not there.
- Begin open communication with the teacher from Day 1–remember you’re a team! This year is all about cooperation and trust. If you have a concern, bring it to the teacher’s attention right away.
- Be calm and positive when you speak about school in your child’s presence.
- Please don’t say negative things about the school or teacher when your child is around. They will internalize this & it will show up in their behaviors.
- If you have any concerns, take them directly to the teacher.
- Encourage your child to share school experiences with you. Ask specific questions about what happens at school each day and how your child feels about it.
- Avoid general questions like, “How was your day?” or “What did you do?”
- Try more specific questions like, “What activity did you do with writing today?” or “What book did your teacher read aloud to you?” or “Did you draw a picture in art class?”
- Don’t forget to share about your day, too! Modeling this type of conversation can help your child feel more comfortable sharing about their day.
- Get involved with the parent-teacher organization and/or volunteer in your child’s classroom.
- Even if you can’t volunteer in the room during the day, maybe you can volunteer to take work home to cut, laminate, staple, glue…those kinds of tasks are SO helpful to the teacher.
- Another option is to ask if you can do a virtual read aloud to the class. My husband did that for my daughter’s class and it worked out great!
- Look through your child’s folder every night and read through all school emails. There’s a lot of information that will come home and you’ll need to be on top of it so you don’t miss permission slips, announcements, etc.
- Make connections with other kindergarten parents. The friends you make in kindergarten might be the ones you have for years to come!
- Don’t ask the teacher important questions before or after school during the craziness. Send an email instead.
- If you can, attend at least one field trip & go to school events. Be part of the community!
And the most important tip…HAVE FUN! Enjoy being a kindergarten parent!
Kindergarten is the most special year of elementary school, and it’ll fly by in the blink of an eye.
Preparation is key, but definitely enjoy this year & the special memories your little one will make.
After all… “All I really need to know, I learned in kindergarten.” -Robert Fulghum
KINDERGARTEN READINESS E-BOOK
Would you rather have this information as a PDF download so you don’t have to navigate to all the different pages on my website? Check out my Kindergarten Readiness eBook and save yourself time!