Boy in kindergarten drawing at school whilst smiling

The thought of sending your little ones off to their first day of Kindergarten or preschool can cause some anxiety (to say the least) for most parents. Will they have a full meltdown or quite happily skip off to the Playdoh table as the bell rings for the first time?

Luckily, there are certain skills that you can start to develop with your children that will help them transition into this new phase of their life. By working on these skills together with your child, you will encourage communication between you both. It’s so important to consistently communicate with your little ones so they can make sense of how they are feeling and to know that they will be OK. 

We’ve compiled a list of skills that will help your child make their first day at Kindergarten or pre-school a little less scary along with a list of things you can do on the Big Day to help them succeed.

1. Transitioning between activities

During the school day, children are constantly asked to transition between activities and free time. If you know your child is not good at turning off the iPad for dinner or stopping a Paw Patrol chase to get ready for bed then you can help them work on their transitioning skills. 

A simple exercise to try next time you want to ask your little one to stop what they’re doing and move to something else, is to just go and sit next to them. Sit as close as you can, and take an interest in what they’re doing. Ask a few questions and then gently explain what you would like them to do next such as eating dinner, getting ready for bed or leaving the house.  This exercise sounds too simple to work but, like anything, it takes practice and will be slightly different for each child. Remember the below tips:

  • Be sure your child knows you are helping them with the transition – “Let’s walk to the kitchen together”
  • Include your child in the new activity – “Do you think you could choose the plates for dinner tonight” or “Could you help me carry my handbag to the car”
  • Try to be patient with yourself and your little ones

2. Establishing new routines

Going to school in itself will be one of many new routines that your children will carry out daily. Start setting up some easy routines at home that you can practise with your little ones. This will give them confidence that they can remember the steps of a routine and also give them some security about what comes next. A feeling of confidence and security are both important emotions to help your child during their first year of school.

Set up a bedtime routine or a reading routine that you can work on every day.

  • When creating the routine be sure to ask them if they have any other steps they want to add. You could also ask them to draw pictures for each step of the routine.  
  • If you create a visual “routine board” make sure its placed somewhere they can see it every day.

3. Taking turns

Even though children can still play alongside of each in Kindergarten, during free time they will start to use their socialising skills. An important one is the patience to wait and take turns. 

Some fun ways to encourage this skill that involves the whole family are:

  • Play some easy board games 
  • When you are in the car next, let everyone take a turn deciding on which song to listen to next.

4. Becoming independent

Part of the fear of going to school that your little ones feel is brought on by knowing mum or dad won’t be with them all day to help them. Try to build their confidence by allowing them to do things for themselves that are challenging but not too hard. 

Some things to try would be:

  • Packing their school bag
  • Opening their lunchbox
  • Tying their shoe laces or doing up their velcro flaps
  • Opening and closing their drink bottles
  • Picking out their own school bag key chain

On the Big Day

Be prepared for butterflies of excitement and nervousness as well as a few tears for good measure (that’s just the mums and dads). Emotions will be high for everyone on the first day of Kindergarten so after you have taken a few deep breathes try to remember as many of the below tips as possible. It helps to give your little ones a cuddle after each suggestion:

  • Be enthusiastic.
  • Listen to your little one’s concerns and tell them you understand .
  • Remind them how brave they are .
  • Put something small in their back that will make them feel like you are with them. For my daughter, I used to put a little note of paper with love hearts drawn on it and spray it with my perfume so she would feel like I was hugging her. Whenever she felt sad, her teacher would let her go to bag and look for it.
  • Keep the goodbyes short and upbeat and remind them you will see them later on that day. If you feel your tears coming on, try to hold them back until you are in the car so your little ones don’t see you upset.
  • Start a first day of school tradition such as photos before school or a special treat after school.
  • At the end of the first day when everyone has fallen into bed in a heap, take the time to hug them and talk about how they are feeling. 

Remember that this is just a phase and we will all survive it. Be sure to give your little ones extra cuddles and support during this time and takes lots of photos! 

Good luck for the start of the school term, ladies!

For more tips & tricks, check out the Parenting section on the blog.

Melville Mums
Author: Melville Mums