Kindergarten Transitions

Getting to Know Your Kindergartener

You may be excited and a bit worried about your child’s kindergarten transition. This is a big step for many families, both adults and children, as children head off to what may be a larger school and more independence.  

Information about 2022-23 kindergarten transition activities and other information about what to expect at each Addison County school is here!

 

We hope information provided by the school helps you begin to know your child’s school and what to expect.  Most area schools have their handbooks and other information posted on their websites and will also send mailings to all kindergarteners in the spring. If your child has not participated in a publicly-funded PreK program or if you have recently moved, please contact the school directly to be sure they have your updated contact information. Contact information for the schools is listed below.


Addison County schools will reach out to you to connect about your child prior to school start. Some schools will offer opportunities for visits, some will send you mailings, and some will contact you by phone. Communication with the schools provides kindergarten teachers with a chance to get to know children’s skills and interests and gives families a chance to learn more about the school.  Most preschool programs will communicate with your child's school to help them learn more.

 

Communicating About Your Child

Here are some of the questions that a kindergarten teacher might ask you about your child:

 

  • How is your child feeling about starting kindergarten? What are your hopes for your child in kindergarten?

  • Does your child know other children who will be coming to kindergarten? What is their relationship like?

  • Does your child use the bathroom and/or dress independently?

  • How does your child sleep and eat? Does your child nap?

  • Has your child ever attended a preschool or child care program? How does your child separate from you? 

  • How does your child play with friends? Can he/she cooperate or take turns?

  • What does your child like to play with? Can your child focus on a quiet activity for 10 minutes or more?

  • Does your child enjoy stories and books?

  • How does your child handle disappointment, frustration, and other strong emotions? What helps your child to calm down if needed?

  • Can your child communicate clearly? Can he/she follow simple directions and ask for help if needed?

  • Has your child had any significant medical events or developmental challenges in his/her life?

  • Who are the people in your child’s life that are important to him or her?


You and your child will also have questions for the school. We hope that many of these are addressed here or in mailings from the school, but if not, please reach so that we can assist you.

Kindergarten "Readiness"

Some families worry as kindergarten approaches that their child is not ‘ready’ for kindergarten or will not get enough support at school: "Will my child have enough time to eat lunch?" "My child sings the ABC's, but can only name a few letters." "What if my child needs help in the bathroom?" “My child doesn’t know the other children in his/her class”. 

If you are feeling worried about your child’s transition to kindergarten, our schools want to reassure you that children arrive at school with many different skills and needs. Kindergarten teachers are experienced at supporting all children in their classrooms. 

 

If you feel that your child may need extra support - whether that is with self-care, medical, social, or academic needs - the best thing to do is to discuss that with your child’s school. If your school offers a transition day, be sure to attend as these are perfect opportunities to connect directly with kindergarten teachers and other school staff such as guidance counselors, nurses, and principals.  If your child works with a special educator, that person will also help your family with the transition.

Preparing for Kindergarten

 

Most kindergarten teachers will let you know that a child’s approach to learning and his/her social-emotional skills are the most important of all the school readiness skills.  Children do not need to use flashcards or apps to prepare for academic learning.  Instead, you and your family can prepare for kindergarten with the following activities:

 

  • Prepare your child for what to expect in kindergarten by visiting the school with them and talking about their hopes and worries. Talk honestly and enthusiastically about how fun kindergarten will be, but acknowledge their fears and worries as natural.

  • Make sure your child gets enough sleep at night (according to pediatricians, kids this age need 10-13 hours!) and try to phase out afternoon naps, if possible.

  • Make sure your child eats a good breakfast either before or at school.

  • Check with your child’s doctor to make sure your child has all his/her immunizations.

  • Arrange playdates with other children who will be in your child’s kindergarten class.

  • Help your child learn to become independent in the bathroom and with dressing.

  • Read with your child every day for at least 20 minutes and talk with them about the books you read.

  • Help your child learn to ask for help and adult attention in appropriate ways.

  • Encourage your child to solve problems on their own and to keep trying when a task is hard.

  • Play simple board or card games to build skills like turn-taking, following directions, and focus.

  • Provide lots of outside time to play, run, climb and balance.

  • Teach your child to say their first and last name and help them to recognize their name in print.

  • Make sure children have lots of cooperative play time with friends and encourage skills such as sharing, turn-taking and empathy.

  • Provide lots of opportunities for children to draw, color and use scissors.

  • Ask your child open-ended questions and help them to have back and forth conversations.

  • Establish morning and bedtime routines and encourage your child to help with small chores around the house.

  • Point out letters and numbers and encourage interest in looking at them or writing them, but don’t demand it if your child is not interested.

  • Help children recognize and learn to cope with strong emotions (anger, sadness) by ‘taking a break’, communicating their needs, and breathing deeply.

  • Add counting to your daily routines - count as you go upstairs, count snacks, toys, etc.

  • Plan to spend extra time on the first day of school, but do not prolong your goodbyes.


You can help your child most by continuing to talk and play with them on a regular basis. We are excited to meet you and your child and to help your family successfully navigate this big transition. Addison County schools are ready for your child!

Separation Anxiety and How to Help

Some children (and families) feel anxious at the start of kindergarten even when they have participated in early childhood programs. Anxiety in children may look like constant talk about the upcoming changes or a refusal to even chat about the changes. Children may seem to have a "short fuse" for emotional upsets. On the first day of school or even several weeks in, children may cry, cling, freeze, resist going to school or participating, or try to control the people and events around them. Some children may be able to identify and express their worries, but many will not be able to express their anxiety in words.

 

It is important to acknowledge these feelings in yourself and in your child. When you take care of your own needs related to separation from your child, you will be better able to meet the emotional needs of your child. Children whose families can approach school with an outwardly calm, confident, and positive attitude will transition more smoothly.

 

Here are some tips to help your child cope with anxiety about kindergarten:

  • Visit the school! Our schools have kindergarten registration days and welcome children and families into the building on those days. Over the summer or when the playground is not in use after school or on weekends, some families enjoy visits to the school playgrounds. If your school offers a time at the end of the summer to visit, that is another opportunity to show your child the classroom. Point out the things in the classroom your child might enjoy, where they will put their things, and explain with enthusiasm what they might do in kindergarten (e.g. "I notice there are a lot of markers here. I bet you will draw a lot of pictures in kindergarten!). If you have older siblings at the school, bring your younger child with you to pick them up.

  • Build your child's relationship with the teacher. Many teachers will send a letter of introduction in late spring or summer. You can help your child think about connections to the teacher's interests or identify something special they want to tell or show their teacher on the first day of school (e.g. "Your teacher has a dog at her house. I bet she will love to hear about your pets!").

  • Read books about kindergarten (book list on sidebar) and talk with your child about what they are looking forward to doing at kindergarten (e.g. "In this book, I notice children playing on the playground. You will have so much fun swinging on the playground in kindergarten!").

  • Prepare a "transition object" that your child can wear or keep in their backpack for the first few days. Matching friendship bracelets, stickers, temporary tattoos, or even a heart drawn in marker on a hand can work well for this purpose. The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn can make a nice read aloud to go with this.

  • Let your child know that you will be thinking of them and looking forward to hearing about their day. Share the ways you will be thinking of them and how you cope with your feelings, "I will keep this picture of you on my phone to look at when I miss you". You can leave short notes or drawings in your child's lunchbox to let them know you are thinking about them during school. "I love you!" Or give your child something of yours to hold onto and say that you'll be thinking of them when they look at it, "You can wear my necklace today, and it will be like I am giving you a hug every time you look at it."

  • Tell your child about your plans for pick-up after school. Show your child where you will meet them and give them a rough idea of when you will see them (e.g. "After your second outside recess, your teacher will help you pack up to meet me here"). Many classrooms will have a visual schedule for children, so children can see exactly when in the day you will come back to get them. 

  • Greet the teacher with your child in a warm and confident way. Your positive relationship with the teacher will help your child feel comfortable with the transition. Teachers will help your child settle in and find a fun activity to engage with.

  • Stay calm and give your child some soothing words that will help them cope: "I know you are worried, but you've got this!", "I can't wait to hear what you did at school when I pick you up!"

  • Prepare for a quick goodbye ritual and hand-off. Your instincts may be to try to comfort your child and linger in the school building or to escape when your child is not looking. However, your child will actually transition more successfully if you create a quick goodbye ritual and leave your child with another adult in the classroom. This might look like a quick hug or kiss and a "I'll see you this afternoon! Have fun with [teacher name]!" or you might use a ritual like kissing the child's palm and closing their hand around it before you leave.

  • Use your evenings and weekends to rest and reconnect. Many kindergarten children are exhausted after a full day of kindergarten and may be more emotional than usual. They may need earlier bedtimes and fewer scheduled activities as well as an opportunity to reconnect with you. Ask your child about school and be sure to focus on the positive aspects: "Can you tell me three fun things you did today?", "Which children did you play with at recess?", "What is your favorite part of the day?", "What book did your teacher read today?"

  • Get support if you need it! If your child becomes emotional at drop-off, it can be hard on you too. Sometimes it can help for caregivers to take turns with drop-offs or for the primary caregiver to have a friend to talk to when they leave the building. This is a big step for your whole family, so take care of yourself too!

School Contact Information

Kid in Graduation Gown
Booklist

Many families find that reading books about kindergarten helps to prepare their child for what to expect.  Below is a sample book list about kindergarten transitions, although there are many titles available. 

  • Look Out Kindergarten, Here I Come! by Nancy Carlson

  • Lola Goes to School by Anna McQuinn

  • I Am Too Absolutely Small for School by Lauren Child

  • Planet Kindergarten by Sue Ganz-Schmitt

  • Llama Llama Misses Mama by Anna Dewdney

  • Countdown to Kindergarten by Alison McGhee

  • The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn

  • Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten by Joseph Slate

  • Kindergarten, Here I Come! by D.J. Steinberg

  • The Night Before Kindergarten by Natasha Wing

  • How Do Dinosaurs Go to School? by Jane Yolen and Mark Teague

  • The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson

 

Most of these books will be available at your local libraries and some will be read by your child in his/her kindergarten classroom!

Videos

Watching videos about what school is like may also help your child with the transition.

 

Children and Teacher in Kindergarten
Playing in a Tunnel
Children Arriving at School
Art Class Girl
Young Students
Lunch Time
Girlfriends
School Supplies