Guide to Starting Kindergarten

Girl playing with dolls in front of dollhouse

You blinked, and your baby is almost a kindergartener! But before you get all misty-eyed at drop off, you’ve got to make sure your little learner is set up for success! Our tips for starting kindergarten will help make sure your kiddo feels prepared physically, mentally, and emotionally, so when it’s finally drop off time, the only tears are yours.

Find the Perfect Bedtime

You likely already have a set bedtime routine, but you may want to move it earlier in the evening before the big first day! Five year olds need about 10-12 hours of sleep each night, and with early school mornings, they may need to be in bed as early as 6:30 to get the sleep they need! If you think they’ll benefit from hitting the hay a little earlier, start moving their bedtime up in 15-minute increments in the weeks before school until you’ve reached your target time.

Master Your Mornings

While you’re working on bedtime, it’s also a good idea to practice your morning flows as well! A week or two in advance, start waking them up at the same time they’ll wake up on school mornings. Go through the entire process of getting ready each day, and by the time the real first day rolls around, they won’t be groggy or stressed from rushing to get ready.

Prepare Them for a Typical Kindergarten Day

Of course, one of the best and easiest things you can do to prepare your child for kindergarten is simply talking about it. Let them know what they can expect and try to build excitement for meeting their teacher, making new friends, and learning new things! If your child has never been to preschool, they may truly not know what to expect, so offer plenty of details – story time, sitting at a desk, playgrounds, the cafeteria, etc.

Kids who have already attended preschool will be familiar with most of the basics, but they might still be surprised by some things in kindergarten. Prep them for things like longer days, longer periods of focused instruction, and larger class sizes. Frame it positively – these changes mean they are a big kid, after all!

And be sure to listen as well – if your child is expressing nervousness about kindergarten, you can help by dispelling any unnecessary fear and refocusing on the positives while still empathizing with their feelings.

Read Books about Going to Kindergarten

If talking isn’t enough to build excitement or calm fears, try reading some books about kindergarten as well. They’ll help normalize the school day and make it seem extra fun! Many books feature characters who are nervous about their first day, which may be helpful if your little one has been feeling apprehensive too. And there’s no need to go buy new books – just search “goes to school” or “goes to kindergarten” in your local library’s catalog, and you’re sure to get plenty of titles!

Don’t Miss Meet the Teacher

Even just a few minutes to see their classroom and meet their new teacher before the first day can help your kiddo feel more confident and prepared on their first day!

Create a Kid Study Space

Creating a kid-friendly study space isn’t just about homework – it’s about helping your child actually enjoy and feel ownership over studying and reading. So even though kindergarten homework assignments are usually quick and easy, take advantage of the chance to create positive study habits in a space your child enjoys! A study space should be tidy, distraction-free, and ergonomically correct for kids’ smaller bodies. That means a kids’ desk or a booster seat at a regular desk or table.

We find that kid-sized furniture definitely adds to the cool factor and helps kids feel like the space is totally their own. Our tips for How to Create a Kid-Friendly Study Desk will encourage them to get involved in decorating and organizing their space. If you don’t have room for a desk, try our Ideas for Setting Up a Kids Reading Corner, or check out our new space-saving Arches Floating Wall Desk and Chair. No matter where they’re working, our 5 Tips to Keep Kids Organized and Focused can help keep the space organized and free from distractions.

Make Extra Time for Play & Rest the First Weeks

Even for kids who are used to preschool or daycare, the first week of kindergarten is exhausting! They’re meeting new people, learning new rules, and focusing for longer periods of time. Keep your evening and weekend plans to a minimum so your little one can catch up on the rest they need. And while it may seem counterintuitive, they may also crave more time to move around and get active. All that sitting and focusing is tough, especially for very active kids, so pencil in some time to let them get outdoors for child-led play.

Check In & Observe

With any big change, it’s always a good idea to ask your child how they’re doing and observe them for signs that something isn’t right. Kids who are having a hard time adjusting may act out more, get more reserved or sullen, or have emotional outbursts. While a small adjustment period is normal, if your child just isn’t themselves for more than a few weeks, check in with their teacher to see if they’ve noticed any problems in the classroom. And of course, talk to your child to get their take on how kindergarten is going! With any luck (and these tips!), starting kindergarten will be smooth sailing!