Starting kindergarten or preschool is big. Read our insider tips from families and educators to help your child transition into their new room.
For some children, this could be their first time separated from their parents. Their classmates already in an early learning environment must also adjust to a new room, teachers and routines.
Knowing how to prepare for that first day of kindergarten can make life easier for children and parents. Taking a few simple steps can ease anxiety and fears and help children get their kindergarten or preschool year off to a flying start.
Each child will respond differently, and nobody knows your child better than you. We've put together our top six tips for getting children prepared and excited for this big step in their education.
Before we get started, let's clarify that different states use different terminology for the year before school. When discussing kindergarten and preschool at Goodstart, we refer to the year before primary school.
Organise a play date in the new kindy or preschool room
Your child might already be at the centre and need to transition into the kindergarten or preschool room. In that case, your centre director organises days to play in the kindy or preschool room to get them used to their new space.
For children new to the centre or early learning, attending a few play dates at the centre is a great idea. Centre directors often organise several times for new families and children to join and meet their new friends. You can arrange individual play dates if this is too much. These sessions help you feel comfortable with the centre and meet other parents. Your child will be busy with activities, playing with other children, getting to know their teacher and learning their way around their new space.
Have conversations with your child about moving up to kindy
Start introducing the idea of going to kindergarten or preschool to your child. Talk to the kindergarten teacher or centre director about what to expect on the first day. In the weeks leading up to their move, use this information to ask leading questions to your child about what they expect and how they're feeling.
Get them excited about it – play-based learning is fun, after all! But try not to overdo it. Some children will still be feeling anxious about this new adventure. Talking about it too much can add to their anxiety and make it seem bigger than it is.
Get something different or new for their new room
It doesn't have to be brand new. Recycled or hand-me-down is better for the planet! Getting a new item that symbolises their progression into kindergarten or preschool helps build excitement. It gives them a feeling of ownership and a sense of achievement. It could be as simple as a new or hand-me-down bag, lunchbox, shoes or hat.
Role play with your child
Your amateur acting skills are well rehearsed by this stage of parenthood, so put them to good use with some role playing of their new daily routine. First, get some inside knowledge from their kindergarten teacher or centre director. Their day will look different, so you could do simple things like getting dressed, packing their bag with a hat and change of clothes, even pretending to make the trip to the centre and putting their personal items in their place.
Get yourself ready for the first day
You want the morning of the first day to be smooth and manageable, so make sure you're organised and ready to go. Children don't like being rushed, especially when nervous or anxious. Give yourself plenty of time to get ready and arrive a bit early. The centre director and teacher will be expecting you, and they'll know how to get your child engaged and settled.
Plan your exit strategy
Don't hang around if you've got to the centre on time and your child is settling. Give a warm but short goodbye, tell your child when you'll pick them up, and make a hasty retreat. It's tempting to stay and encourage them, but that risks more anxiety as your child wonders why today is different and senses that something's up. Call your centre director if you need to during the day to see how your child's going, but not every hour. Don't worry. Everyone (including you!) will be fine. It's a big day, and that massive hug at pick will be one for the memory books.
Ask your centre director or teacher if you have any concerns about starting kindergarten or preschool. They'll help ensure your child has a great experience and develops a lifelong love of learning.
Learn more about our approach to early learning here, and find a centre near you.