The children in my preschool classroom will all be attending kindergarten in the fall. What can I do to help make the transition to kindergarten a smooth one for the children and their parents?
– Mary Jo Kinkle, Bend, OR
One of the biggest transitions for young children is the one from preschool to kindergarten. You can help make this transition easier for children and families by helping children learn what will be expected of them when they enter kindergarten and by incorporating the following suggestions into your daily curriculum.
1. Encourage responsibility by assigning daily chores. Explain to the children that everyone will have different jobs to do before assigning each child one or more “jobs” to complete every day. Model the proper way to carry out each task and make a job chart for each child, adding a sticker for each chore completed. Possible jobs for the children might include: pet feeder, table wiper, toy organizer, line leader, trash helper, etc. Encourage parents to reinforce this concept by giving their children similar jobs at home.
2. Incorporate reading, writing, and math activities into your daily curriculum. Identifying colors and shapes, recognizing letters of the alphabet, counting numbers 1-10, and writing their first name in print are all skills that will be beneficial for a beginning kindergartener.
3. Model and practice good manners. Teach children to say “please” and “thank you,” to walk while inside, to not interrupt while others are talking, to take turns, and to use “indoor” and “outdoor” voices.
4. Develop a consistent discipline plan at school and home. Praise positive behavior (good manners, sharing, taking turns, completing a chore, etc.) and have specific consequences for undesirable ones (one warning, time out, loss of privilege, etc.).
5. Teach and practice school skills. Kindergarten teachers everywhere will thank you for teaching children to open and close a lunchbox and thermos, open juice boxes/pouches and milk cartons, sharpen a pencil, properly wash their hands, complete toilet needs independently, and tie their shoes.
6. Encourage children to follow directions the first time given. Give a direction, have the child repeat the direction, and follow through with it. Also practice multiple directions. For example, “Please pick up the blocks, bring them to the block center, and put them in the bin.”
7. Plan a field trip to a local kindergarten class, or recommend that parents and children tour the new school. Sit in on a kindergarten class in progress, meet the kindergarten teachers, visit the nurse, cafeteria, playground, bathroom, and office. Being familiar with the school and the teachers will help ease parents’ and children’s anxiety.
8. Talk with parents about the importance of establishing bedtime and morning routines. Then encourage parents to practice these routines at least two weeks before school starts. In addition, help parents decide on a bedtime ritual. For example, lay out clothes at 6:55 p.m., bath at 7:00, snack at 7:15, brush teeth at 7:30, story time at 7:35, bed at 7:45. Do the same for the morning. Having a plan will create much less stress for everyone.
9. Distribute a list of ideas for parents to do at home two to three months before the start of kindergarten. Examples may include getting a library card for their child and letting her select books, reading to the child every day, playing “school,” etc.
10. Offer parents strategies for coping with separation anxiety. Separation anxiety is painful for everyone. Encourage parents to leave their children at the preschool classroom door instead of carrying or walking them in and allow children to unpack without help. Beginning kindergarten is usually much more difficult for the parents than the children. Allowing children to be independent is important for their self-esteem (“I am confident that you can do this by yourself and be successful.”). Children who are reluctant may need a more gradual process. “No crying” mornings may be rewarded with stickers or other positive reinforcement.
Cindy Johnson has been in elementary administration for nine years and directly supervises 360 children from ages three to seven daily. She enjoys writing, cats, birdwatching, and camping with her husband and eight-year-old son.