How to Transition from Preschool to Kindergarten

The transition from preschool to kindergarten is a big one. Longer days, more structure, and often a new building can all be a part of going to kindergarten. Whether your child is a daycare and preschool pro, has only ever been with family members, or has gone the half-day route, there’s going to be a transition in their next steps to kindergarten for you both. Here are a few tips to help you negotiate that transition over the coming months.

Keep Learning

“The preschool experience has prepared them academically for kindergarten,” says Marney Turner, Certified Family Life Educator. “You can keep that going over the summer by reading to them often, and practicing letters, numbers, and sight words with fun and engaging activities. Have them do a scavenger hunt around your house to find anything with a number on it (and bring it to you while you relax on the sofa!). Point out sight words or letters on traffic signs and billboards while you are driving. Make it easy, make it fun!”

Saying Goodbye To Old Friends

We noticed when we started talking about new options to find the right school for our daughter, her mind immediately went to being sad about missing friends who wouldn’t be at her new school. Talking about the fact that some kids they know may be in their new school, while others may stay at the same school or go to other different schools can help them understand they aren’t the only one dealing with change. Keeping in touch for summer play dates and being able to text first day pictures can help too.

Describe and Practice New Daily Routines

Routines like arrival, snack and lunchtime, and using the bathroom at school can be big changes for little bodies. If you’re concerned that your child may not finish lunch on time, for example, give them a chance to practice using their new lunchbox at home. Even better, try out a picnic out of the house with some distractions. Set a timer and see how much they are able to finish. Don’t be afraid to pack calorie-dense snacks that help make up for lunchtime deficits.

Visit The School Ahead Of Time

If your kindergarten allows visits with your child before the school year starts, take them up on it! It’s a great way for kids to get acquainted with the environment and teachers with mom and dad nearby before they are there alone.

Read Books About School

Books are a fantastic and easy way to get the conversation started in the weeks before they begin school. In our family, we loved School’s First Day of School last year and we are planning to read On the First Day of Kindergarten. Also, Pete The Cat: Rocking In My School Shoes and Countdown to Kindergarten are awesome back to school books your kids will love.

Curb The School Talk If Needed

While it’s great to prepare, don’t be afraid to curb the conversation if it seems to be making your child more anxious.

Create A Drop-Off Ritual

If drop-off seems to be anxiety producing for your child, create a ritual. It will let them know what’s coming and reassure them you’ll be excited to see them when they get home. Keep it light and reassuring or funny. Check out the book “The Kissing Hand” or come up with your own silly goodbye.

Let Them Get Comfy With Their New Stuff

Getting to be a part of choosing school clothing, gear, or supplies is part of the excitement of the transition to kindergarten. Harness that enthusiasm by giving them time to wear their new shoes or snuggle up on their rest time mat in advance.

Expect Regression in the Transition to Kindergarten

When we started preschool, I noticed my daughter felt anxious to ask to go to the bathroom or didn’t go when it was offered and ended up having accidents. We did all the logical things we could think of to improve the situation. In the end, talking through how she was feeling and being patient while she figured out new routines did more to ease the regressions than anything else. Regressions might also show up as whining, constant needs for hugs, attention, or engaging in other behaviors you thought you had already worked through.

Practice Self Care

If your child comes home in a meltdown at the start of school, know that this is a very real phenomenon called After School Restraint Collapse. They’ve spent all day trying to be on their best behavior and it’s exhausting. You can help by holding space for you child. This might look like time alone, extra time together, or some time for them to simply zone out or go to bed early. Not surprisingly, it might not look much different for you.

With a little thought and planning, you and your child can have a great transition from preschool to kindergarten. What other tips would you add? You can also check out the local resources below for more ideas.

Local Resources
Kindergarten Ready Toolkit
Kindergarten and 1st Grade Early Literacy Calendar
Ready Rosie
What Kindergarten Teachers Wish Parents Knew

Preparing Your Child for Kindergarten

Preparing for Back to School can be stressful! Be sure to check out How to Stay Organized This School Year.

Deonne Lindsey
Deonne lives in Lansing with her husband Tom and their daughter. She is a stay at home mom, runner, scrapbooker, and lover of all things genealogy. When she’s not reading to her daughter, you can find her tracking down chocolate hummus at Aldi, or coaching a weekly workshop at WW.


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