Kindergarten Transition: Easing Anxious Hearts and Minds

By Jen Lindbeck

Spring is here and that means kindergarten registration is upon us!

For some kids the very idea of kindergarten can cause anxiety. When I taught preschool, I noticed children became a bit apprehensive or fearful when we talked about kindergarten-readiness. After all, if a child does not have older siblings, they don’t really have a frame of reference for what “big” school is like.

Here are some of the things we did in our preschool class, and encouraged our families to do, that calmed children’s fears and got them ready for their first day of school.

1. Visit a kindergarten classroom

I took my students on a field trip to a kindergarten classroom where they joined the kindergarteners during their writing portion of the day, “circle time”, and activities at various centers. When we returned from the field trip, we talked about ways that kindergarten was the same as preschool and ways that kindergarten was different. My students discovered that there were lots of similarities between their preschool experience and the kindergarten classroom. Once they realized those similarities, a lot of those anxious feelings dissipated. If your kid is not enrolled in a formal preschool setting, you can still visit the school. Take advantage of kindergarten open house – this will provide your child with the opportunity to walk the halls and visit the classroom. Go for a walk or drive to your child’s school often and let your kid play on the playground and peek in the classroom windows. Pretty soon, the school will feel more familiar.

2. Practice the “Kindergarten Way”

A fellow teacher recommended that I talk to my students about the “kindergarten way” of doing things. This was a game changer for my preschool classroom. For example, during circle time if one of my students was laying on the floor kicking her legs, I would gently remind her that we are practicing the “kindergarten way”. That student would immediately sit on their bottom! If there was hitting, I would remind my students that “we use safe hands – that is the kindergarten way.” The “kindergarten way” can be practiced at home just as easily as we practiced at school. Here are some suggestions:

The kindergarten way means: 

  • We use our manners at the dinner table

  • We share
  • We use kind words

  • We take risks

  • We problem solve

3. Read about kindergarten
Here are some great books you can read with your child to get them excited about kindergarten.

Sometimes it isn’t just the child that feels anxious about kindergarten. Parents can be apprehensive and even sad about the transition….and children pick up on that. The goal is to create a sense of familiarity so that both you and your child feel comfortable at the school, and talk, talk, talk about what to expect. Kindergarten is a momentous occasion, so best wishes to you all as you prepare your kiddos, and yourself, for the big day!

Jen Lindbeck is the Early Learning Resource Coordinator at United Way of Skagit County. She will be sharing more tips about easing the kindergarten transition in the coming months. Next up: “What if someone is mean to my kid?”


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