Is your child starting kindergarten soon? Are you sobbing as you’re reading this? Maybe your heart even aches a little. Let’s face it—the transition into kindergarten is a big milestone for our children.
I had the privilege of teaching kindergarten for 8 years, but being on the other side was a very different experience. This year, my daughter will be starting first grade (and yes, my heart still aches thinking about another school year), but I’m here to tell you that we survived the first few days of kindergarten. Was it scary? Yes. Was it hard to say goodbye? Yes. Were there tears? A few. However, we were fortunate enough to have THE BEST teacher we could have hoped for. When the teacher tears up during kindergarten orientation and thanks you for sharing your children with her, it feels like you’ve won the lottery.
As a former kindergarten teacher, and now former kindergarten parent, I can tell you that the best advice I can give you is to have courage and be brave in front of your child. If you are nervous, they will know. If you have negative feelings about the transition, they will pick up on them. Your child will follow your lead. Don’t let them see you cry or worry. Stay positive and tell them how amazing kindergarten will be, how much they will learn, and the new friends they will make.
I have also found that the easiest way to introduce children to new experiences is through books. Literature allows children to make connections to characters and talk about their fears and worries. Books can validate our feelings.
As you prepare to send your kindergartener off into the world, take some together to read these books. I promise they will help your child (and you) make it through the very first day… and maybe even the second day.
- How Do Dinosaurs Go to School? by Jane Yolen and Mark Teague
What if a dinosaur came to school with you? This book is a favorite in our house and always makes us giggle. Besides being fun to read, it also allows children to think about how to (and how not to) behave when they are at school.
- Look Out Kindergarten, Here I Come! by Nancy Carlson
In this book, Henry can’t wait to start kindergarten. He jumps out of bed, eats his breakfast, grabs his school supplies and has lots of questions for his mom. But when he gets to school and sees how big it is, he starts to have second thoughts. This is a perfect book to read with your child who may be hesitant to start school.
- Timothy Goes to School by Rosemary Wells
Who doesn’t love Rosemary Wells? Timothy is looking forward to his first day of school, but then he meets Claude who seems perfect in every way. Timothy’s insecurity creeps in until he finds a new friend who feels the exact same way. Do you have a child who is a little shy or has trouble fitting into new situations? Introduce him to Timothy!
- The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn
If you don’t share any other book with your incoming kindergarten, please share this one! Chester Raccoon does not want to go to school and leave his mother. So she kisses his paw and tells him that when he feels sad, he can press his paw to his cheek and feel the warmth of her kiss. Are you crying yet? Believe me, you will. If you are worried about separation anxiety, this will help ease the transition. It ‘s also a springboard for coming up with your own goodbye routines. Sniff, sniff.
- Wemberly Worried by Kevin Henkes
I still read this to 2nd and 3rd graders every year. Wemberly worries about EVERYTHING from the crack in the living room wall to whether there would be enough cake at the party. So when school starts, she has a whole new list of worries. Read this book and ask your child what their worries are about school?
- Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten by Joseph Slate
This book introduces your child to kindergarten and gives a behind the scenes look into what her teacher may be doing to get ready for the first day! It’s also an alphabet book.
- The Night Before Kindergarten by Natasha Wing
A must read as your child is settling into bed the night before his first day. I won’t give it away, but the ending is adorable and will hit home for parents as well. I used to read this to my kindergarten parents during parent orientation and usually needed to pass out a few tissues.
- Llama Llama Misses Mama by Anna Dewdney
Another book to help with separation anxiety and a child’s fear of being dropped off and left at school. In this story, little llama is excited to see his new classroom but has second thoughts when it’s time for mama to leave. He’s worried she may not come back.
- Planet Kindergarten by Sue Ganz-Schmitt
I always buy my children a back to school book, and this is the one I gave to my daughter before starting kindergarten. I love the review on Amazon: “For one brave boy, kindergarten isn’t just a grade – it’s a destination.” My daughter was SO thrilled to start kindergarten, and I knew that it was the beginning of her lifelong journey through school. Kindergarten is definitely an adventure into a whole new world, and this book takes that metaphor to a whole new level.
- First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg
Do you or your child already have that pit in your stomach? Although this particular story is about a girl who is starting over at a new school, incoming kindergarteners will relate to having similar feelings of not knowing anyone. The surprise ending will make you smile, and your child will realize that it’s not just children who experience the first day jitters.