Preparing for the First Day of Kindergarten

A child playing at a desk.
The transition into elementary school can be a big change for both kids and parents. Photo from Pexels.

A child’s first day of kindergarten is a milestone. According to three local, experienced kindergarten teachers, parents are often more nervous about their child starting kindergarten than the child.

“I think parents realize, oh my gosh, they’re in elementary school. They’re not my little baby anymore,” Rachael Lehman observes. Lehman is a veteran kindergarten teacher of twenty years with Anthony Wayne Local Schools (AWLS).  

Ensuring your child is ready  


One area of concern for parents is whether their child may be behind or ahead academically. It is helpful if kids know their colors, can identify a few letters of the alphabet, recognize their name, and count to ten. 

Emily Lyren, kindergarten teacher for 23 years at AWLS, wants parents to feel assured. “We stress that everybody is starting at their own place, and not to worry… Kindergarten teachers understand that kids are coming in with different experiences with preschool and from a different starting place with their learning.” 

Independence skills

Equally important to numbers and the ABCs are basic self-help skills. Kids need to be able to work their own clothes such as buttoning buttons, zipping zippers and taking their coats off and on, open their own lunch items and use the bathroom independently. 

Social and emotional

Kindergarten is also about helping kids be socially and emotionally ready for first grade. Parents can help kids adjust to the increase in structure and expectations by emphasizing to kids that they are in school to learn. Helpful ongoing conversation topics include respecting the teacher and the rules, following directions, being kind to their classmates and trying their best. 

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Preparing for the first day 

For separation anxiety Lyren suggests, “when parents leave kids with relatives or a babysitter, remind kids that they always come back. Remind them that when they go to school, we will always be back to pick them up.” Parents can send a picture of themselves to put in their pencil box, so kids can look at it when they are feeling nervous.  She also recommends the book, “The Kissing Hand” by Audrey Penn about a racoon’s first day of school. 

Helping kids know what to expect can also help with first day nerves. Some schools let parents come in on the first day and others have parents drop kids off to their teacher at the door. If your child is riding the bus, likely they will sit up front near the bus driver. 

Separating on the first day or two of kindergarten can be tough for some kids and parents. Dana Sayre, Toledo Public Schools kindergarten teacher of 28 years, wants parents to keep a positive tone. As they are preparing to leave, parents can say “Oh, this is so exciting! What a wonderful day. You are starting kindergarten, and I will be back when school is done.” Then leave knowing that your child is in good hands.

More tips for parents: 

  1. Check backpacks, discuss schoolwork and reinforce what they are learning. 
  2. Communicate with the teacher. Read the information that the teacher sends home and communicate any questions or concerns. 
  3. Read to your child.
  4. Ensure regular attendance.
  5. Routines: Children thrive on routines both in the classroom and at home. 
  6. Have a time and place for your child to do homework