The day has finally come for your kiddo to take a significant step toward their independence — their first day of kindergarten. As ready as you and your child are to get the ball rolling (or as overwhelmed as you may feel), there are a few things to do to prepare for kindergarten. There are likely plenty of questions you and your kiddo have before they enter their kindergarten class for the first time. You could even pick up a first-day of kindergarten book to help prepare them.
What should they already know, and what should you pack for them to bring? For these answers and more, early childhood education expert and Vice President of Curriculum and Education at Big Blue Marble Academy, Donna Whittaker, offers insight into how to prepare for the significant milestone of the first day of kindergarten.
What Should Kids Know Before the First Day of Kindergarten?
School is exciting, but it’s kind of scary because it is also new. While all these mixed-up emotions are normal, the more time you spend preparing for kindergarten, the more comfortable and confident your child will be. So, what should your kids know before the first day of kindergarten?
Social and Emotional Skills
Whittaker says that solid social and emotional skills are as essential as all the academic-based criteria. “Children who can regulate their emotions without having a meltdown tend to get along with peers and persist in showing effort when asked to perform tasks that do not come easy to them,” she said.
Self-regulation isn’t something kids inherently know how to do. So, practicing this before dropping them off in a new environment with new people will make a difference.1
“Kindergarten is full of new challenges,” Whittaker says. “But when your child can approach these tasks with confidence instead of angst, their school journey will be much happier.”
Of course, there are also basic academic skills that you should practice with your child to set them up for success when it comes to other skills down the road, like letter recognition, reading, and writing. You may already practice these with your kiddo without even realizing it.2
- Rhyming words: This helps kids set a foundation for reading and word recognition.
- Patterns and sorting: Grouping colors and shapes and creating unique patterns sets a foundation for math.
- Pretend play: Having a strong imagination isn’t just about playing dress-up. It also gives your kindergartener a deeper level of comprehension.
- Following directions: Not only will their teacher thank you, but following directions helps your child avoid frustration when trying to do too many things simultaneously.
Whittaker also reminds parents not to focus too much on reading before kids have mastered the basics. “Pre-literacy skills that help them comprehend what they are reading,” she said. “The first goal of reading is to understand.”
What To Pack for the First Day of Kindergarten
You want to ensure you pack everything your child needs for success on their first day in kindergarten class, but what exactly do they need? Likely, you’ll receive a supply list from your child’s school or teacher.
Whittaker suggests a few things to consider including for your child when packing for the first day of kindergarten:
- A water bottle your child can easily open and fill independently.
- Easy-to-open containers for snacks and lunch.
- Hand-sanitizing wipes (less messy than liquid sanitizer).
Also, as tempting as it may be to let them tuck away a toy or stuffed animal in case they miss you during the day, it’s best to leave those extras at home, Whittaker said. To you, it’s a little something for them to take along to ease separation anxiety. But it can distract or cause conflict because other kids may want the toy, too.
Books To Prepare for the First Day of Kindergarten
Preparing for the first day of kindergarten isn’t limited to mastering skills or buying things for the classroom. With new, exciting changes can come equally big emotions. To help your child navigate these feelings, try out these books about the first day of kindergarten class to help excite them about school and ease any worry or anxiety about being apart from you.
1. “The Kissing Hand” by Audrey Penn
This book tells the story of a little raccoon’s first day of kindergarten. He worries about missing his mom, so she shows him a family tradition that keeps them connected all day.
2. “The Runaway Bunny” by Margaret Wise Brown
This story shows how much mommas love their little bunnies and reinforces that no matter how far apart they are, mom will always find them.
3. “First Day Jitters” by Julie Danneberg
This book is about being nervous on the first day of school but has a delightful surprise ending and focuses on overcoming that nervousness.
4. “The Night Before Kindergarten” by Natasha Wing
“The Night Before Kindergarten” is a fun twist on the classic Christmas story that follows a couple of kids preparing for their first day of kindergarten.
5. “On the First Day of Kindergarten” by Tish Rabe
This book, which is an adaptation of the song “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” shows a little girl’s first day of kindergarten as she rides the bus, jumps rope in the gym, and makes new friends.
6. “Kindergarten, Here I Come!” by D.J. Steinberg
“Kindergarten, Here I Come!” highlights many of the exciting moments of kindergarten for kids, from meeting their teacher to hanging out on the playground during recess.
7. “Clifford Goes to Kindergarten” by Norman Bridwell
Emily Elizabeth brings her big dog, Clifford, to her first day of kindergarten to ease her fears and help her adjust to school.
8. “Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten” by Joseph Slate
In this book, Miss Bindergarten sets up her classroom for her students as the incoming kindergarteners get themselves ready for the first day of school.
9. “KINDergarten: Where Kindness Matters Every Day” by Vera Ahiyya
Leo and his classmates explore the many ways for kids to be kind to each other at school, such as raising their hands, holding the door open for others, and helping out a friend who falls.
Whittaker says, “Reading books with predictable texts, like ‘Brown Bear, Brown Bear’ or ‘Chicka, Chicka Boom,’ help children have the feeling and belief they can read as they fill in the words that come next.”
First Day of Kindergarten Checklist
Now that you have a few strategies to help your child get ready to learn and prepare them for a great time on their first day of kindergarten, create a first-day checklist to keep things organized. For example:
- Pick up and pack the supplies on their school list.
- Choose their first day of kindergarten outfit.
- Get their “First day of kindergarten class” sign ready with all their favorite things.
- Practice reading, following directions, patterns, and rhyming.
- Talk about managing their emotions at school when encountering a new or uncomfortable situation.
- Engage in active listening, validate your new kindergartener’s worries, anxieties, or nervousness about being apart, and give them strategies to help ease those feelings.
There is nothing like the first day of kindergarten. It is a significant experience for kids and parents alike. There will be good and challenging moments, but as long you help them prepare, it will be a positive experience for the memory books!