7 Things to do this Summer to Get your Child Ready for Kindergarten

For some, summer already feels likes it’s over and the school bell is about to ring.  For others, the start of school feels like it is barely on the horizon and that many long summer days are in between.  Regardless of how you are feeling about the start of school, there are some easy things that you can do to make the transition into school easier for your Kindergartener. The way that children start school can contribute to establishing a positive trajectory in school.  It is a good investment of a bit of your time over the summer to help get their school year off to a great start.  Here are 7 Things to do this summer to get your child ready for Kindergarten:

Visit the school

Making the school a normal place to be can make the transition into Kindergarten easier. Many schools have playgrounds that are publically accessible.  This summer, go play on that playground a few times.  In addition, schools are generally happy to have families tour the building during the summer if you contact them.  Call the front desk and ask if you could tour the Kindergarten area of the school.

Practice some academics

Doing some practice over the summer can make the transition into Kindergarten easier. The work that many of us did in first grade is now being done in Kindergarten.  Children know more before they enter Kindergarten than they used to, and they also learn more in Kindergarten.  This means expectations are higher for Kindergarteners than they used to be.  Practice can take a variety of forms.  Set a daily reading time for you to read to your child and have your child begin to read to you. Practice drawing, doing mazes, and writing with a pencil.  Play non-computer based games (we like Too Many Monkeys and Sleeping Queens) which can help practice listening, turn-taking, patience, and self-control, along with pre-academic skills, which are all important in school success.

Go to school-based play sessions

Getting to know some other children who are starting Kindergarten can make the transition into Kindergarten easier.  Not all schools or parent–teacher associations offer these get-to-know-you play sessions, but many schools have something like it, whether it is time on the playground, a fun night, or an ice-cream social.  If your school does, you should make going a priority. The social parts of starting Kindergarten can be new for many children.  Knowing a few others in the class, can help make the classroom a more comfortable place for your child.

Rehearse new routines

Getting your child to understand the new routines can make the transition into Kindergarten easier.  One new routine for many will be a new way of getting back and forth from school. Some children will walk, some will ride in the car, some will ride on the bus.  Regardless of your system, you should practice it – to the extent possible – during the summer.  If your child is walking, walk with them to the school a few times this summer (always using the same route).  If you child will ride in the car, pop by the school a couple times this summer to show them how it will work.  If your child rides the bus, talk about what it is going to be like on the bus, and, do whatever training you can in conjunction with the school.  Many districts have a practice bus riding for Kindergarteners in the days leading up the start of school.   Another new routine may be taking a packed lunch.  Try taking a packed lunch to a park using the containers they may use and have them practice opening the containers, etc.

Set positive expectations

Setting positive expectations for school will help your child look forward to the start of school, and make the transition into Kindergarten easier.  If you talk about how great it is to learn in school, how you are looking forward to them making new friends, how the classroom has neat activities, it will help the child set their own positive expectations for school.  If you convey dread with the start of school, if you talk negatively about the teachers or school, if you talk about school being boring, children will develop negative expectations.  Once school starts, if something negative happens, deal with it then.

Take advantage of what the school offers

Taking advantage of school based transition activities – such as Kindergarten orientation, newsletters, socials – can help make the transition into Kindergarten easier.  Most schools have some activities to help ease the transition into Kindergarten.  Some of these activities are help give parents the information they need to help their child best navigate the transition into Kindergarten, such as sending home a newsletter.  Some of these activities help your child be prepared instructionally, such as having a week-long morning camp for entering Kindergarteners.  Some of these activities help your child connect relationally, such as having teachers visit children.  No matter what form these take, make these activities a priority for your child to participate in.

When you find out who your child’s teacher is, make contact.

Helping the teacher get to know your child can help make the transition into Kindergarten easier.  Your child’s teacher is the most critical ingredient when it comes to defining their experience. Most schools keep it a secret about who your child’s teacher is going to be until late in the summer.  Whenever it is that you find out, do what you can to get to know the teacher and have the teacher get to know you.  Send the teacher an email to let them know you and your child are excited for the school year and tell them one thing that is important for them to know about your child.  Keep it brief and positive. This can help facilitate a better start to the year because the teacher will already know a little about your child.  Once school starts, go to any open house event.  In the first quarter, ask for a parent–teacher conference in the first quarter.  If you can, volunteer in the classroom as a way to help and see what your child and teacher are like in the classroom. Beginning a positive relationship with your child’s teacher can be helpful to assisting your child have a positive Kindergarten experience.

There are other things that you may find important.  Leave a comment below with your ideas so that others can see!

About the Author

Dr. Tim Curby is an associate professor of psychology and director of the applied developmental psychology program at George Mason University. Dr. Curby’s work focuses on examining the role teacher–student interactions have in promoting children's development, particularly regarding children's social–emotional development. His work consistently applies advanced statistical models to school-based research. He has published over 50 peer-reviewed articles. Dr. Curby is a member of the American Psychological Association Coalition for Psychology in Schools and Education. He has done work with that group to examine the transition to Kindergarten.