Kindergarten Transition - San Mateo,CA

Updated on March 12, 2013
R.W. asks from San Mateo, CA
19 answers

What do you wish you knew when you were trying to help you kiddo prep for the transition to kindergarten? I know that's a pretty broad question, but I would appreciate any guidance. We have a guy who is slow to warm to new situations, and I am starting to try to think through how to maximize our opportunity for success. Our school is quite strict about parents not being permitted into the classroom with the child on the first day. My idea is that we have lots of time to ease in if we start now, versus having things be traumatic and then trying to undo a mess.

Add- Thanks for those of you who have replied already.
He is in preschool, he has been dropped off, he has stayed with babysitters & goes to playdates with friends, He usually takes several hours to warm to a new environment (like a birthday party in a new venue with kids he knows) and will stay near one of us while he scopes out the lay of the land, often missing most of the oppertunity for play. He is usually just ready to engage when it's time to go home, and that is in situations where he knows people & is known. I am searching for ways for school not to be some big scary place that we show up one day and dump him off.

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answers from New York on

I really would not make a big deal a out it. Treat it as the normal progression of things. Do not talk about it continuously. He will take his cues from you. If you are excited, he will be. He knows he is going to K right? So a couple of weeks before you can start to talk about it. Let him enjoy his summer.

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answers from Minneapolis on

Attend any sort of orientation the school provides. Do multiple walk throughs for finding the bathroom, his classroom, etc.

Can you find out if anyone he knows will be in his class? Get together before school starts. If no one he knows, try to arrange a play date with a few kids beforehand so he can have some initial "buddies".

Will he be riding the bus? Talk through that.

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answers from New York on

I read your description and it was as if you were talking about my son who is also starting Kindergarten this September.

My son is currently working with a psychologist to ease some of his social anxiety and ease the transition in to kindergarten.

As his Dr told me, you are ahead of the curve by even thinking about this. A lot of the advice given is exactly what his psychologist is telling us: tour the school, talk about the routine, get him excited about the change and above all always remain positive and smile when talking about it. We have to believe ourselves that our children will succeed for them to believe it (as a worrier I struggle with this one myself!)

On a side note - since your description of bday parties reminded me so much of my son - One thing that has worked for us is being the first ones to arrive at parties - he seems to be fine engaging with one child at a time and doesn't seem to notice the crowd gathering. Whereas if we arrive when most kids are there we have a really hard time getting him to engage.

Best of luck to you mama!!

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Detroit on

see if there is a summer program for him..

our school district has a get ready for kinder program.. I think it meets 3 hours a day 4 days a week for 2 or 3 weeks in the summer..

I would find "drop off" activities for him. so he gets used to being "dropped off" and you leave while he is in some kind of class or activity.

the first day of kindergarten is rough.. moms cry.. kids cling.. not pretty.. our school also does not let parents in the class or even in the school.. you hug outside and say bye..

he needsto get used to separating from you without tears..

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Grand Forks on

See if your school division offers a kindergarten prep. We have a "Literacy Links" program that helps kids get ready academically, and a "Kidergarten Here We Come" class that helps kids get used to kindergarten routines. Make sure to take him to any open houses, meet the teacher and orientations offered by the school. Also, see if you can meet any of the kids who will be in his class and have playdates so he has a friend going in to school. A pre-school program a couple afternoons a week would be helpful. We did all of those things and my boys were more than ready to start kindergarten.

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answers from Los Angeles on

If you have an open campus, go play on the school playground over the summer. Get him familiar with the campus and let him become comfortable on it. Find out which classrooms are for kindergarteners and peek in the windows. Find any similarity you can to his preschool class (my son's preschool and kinder had the same carpet and he really liked that).

If the school offers tours (ours has them in the spring for entering kindergarteners) take him with you. Our tour led us into the kinder classrooms, the library, the multi-purpose room, and the office. We don't have an indoor cafeteria, but that would be a good thing to see if you have one so he knows where he'll eat his lunch.

Find ways to meet other kids that will be kindergarteners and set up a few play dates (maybe one a month) until school starts. If possible, get together with them at the school playground so they all feel comfortable there and form the association that these kids will be at school together.

The more time you can spend near the campus, the better it sounds like he will do.

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answers from Portland on

Things that are very helpful for entering kindergarteners...

Ability to dress/undress oneself (ie: coats, esp.)

Ability to perform self-care tasks (wipe nose, wash hands, toileting)

Ability to follow simple directions and transitions in a group. Something which might help would be an age-appropriate summer camp/preschool-type sessions-- if your son hasn't had previous preschool experience, this can be helpful. Even following an instructor for a series of sports lessons can be helpful.

Ability to ask for help when necessary (instead of just waiting for an adult to see they need help).

There are two books: "The Kissing Hand" by Audrey Penn and "A Pocketful of Kisses". I have heard from several parents that these books helped them create goodbye rituals with their children. If you are worried about separation transitions, start these very early on.

Do not stress and do not talk too much about kindergarten right now. This is probably the most important advice I can give you. Unlike adults, who often find information comforting, youngsters process things very differently and often find this information very, very overwhelming. Kids learn through their own experiences, in their own time, and trying to front-load them with information can usually create more anxiety. We don't usually talk so much about most pleasant, fun things, and it's easy for kids to get a sense that *we* have anxiety and concerns, which does worry them.

I always urged my preschool parents to let their kids enjoy the summer and let kindergarten come when it does. So practice the separation rituals and other areas he needs to develop *without* mentioning "In kindergarten, the teacher isn't going to do XYZ, so this is why you have to learn now." Just make it a natural thing-- OF COURSE we are learning to care for ourselves, of course we should find new ways to say goodbye (if that's problematic), etc. Just the natural way of things, NOT kindergarten prep.

Lastly, and I say this as the mom of a kindergartener this year, be confident that they will do well. This is the message you are going to convey that first day at drop off. Smile a lot. Be friendly. Let your son know that you have confidence that he's in great hands and that he's going to learn a lot of new things. He's going to meet some new, nice kids. My son was wary about kindergarten, and I just kept the message clear: it was a new school, and it was a good school. The good school has a good teacher who is going to show you lots of new things. I had my own anxiety about my son being able to pay attention and follow along... and you know, he's done just fine.

You can also google "preparing for kindergarten" and find a lot of articles. Don't sweat the academic stuff, please. The teachers operate on the belief that some of the kids will be familiar with letters and numbers and some won't. They do plenty of work to help the children become proficient. As I said before, if you can convey confidence and keep your anxieties dialed down (and this may mean calling up a friend when your child is out of earshot and talking to them about it), things will likely go fine.

For what it's worth, the kids I see that have the hardest time are the ones whose parents are hovering/expecting them too. That sends the children a "I don't know if you can do it" message. That is incredibly undermining.

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answers from New York on

Does he go to preschool now? What about summer camp? Make sure he has plenty of opportunities to meet other children and get him into a sport or other activity to improve his confidence.

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answers from Washington DC on

i feel for your little guy. first days are STILL hard for me!
and his first day will probably not be his best day, but that doesn't mean it's actually traumatic. sometimes you just have to take a deep breath and accept that there's going to be a period where it's not awesome.
most schools have an evening where you can take your son in, let him see the classroom, where his coat will hang, where the bathrooms are. let him spend as much time as possible doing this.
don't over-prep him. your anxiety will transmit to him and make things worse.
keep it light and cheerful, answer questions but don't talk it to death. if he misses opportunities for play on the first day, he'll more than make up for it by the end of the first week.
i think the best thing you can do is plan for YOUR take-care-of-yourself day after you drop him off!
oh, how i cried.
good luck, mama!
:) khairete

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answers from Los Angeles on

In addition to the great advice you've already received I would approach kindergarten with him as something to be excited about, talk about the new children and teachers he'll be meeting and going to school with, and try to get him into drop-off situations starting now, a playdate or something similar. Let him know you'll be back in "x" amount of time and do just that. Be matter-of-fact if he tries to keep you with him.

When I was PTA president we held "kindergarten teas" the week before school started. Students and parents attended so children saw how it would be, refreshments were served, teachers talked with parents and children played on the playground. When school began it was easier for a child the first day since they'd been there.

Have confidence that the teachers will know how to handle your son and the other students, I suspect this is why they have the "no parent in the classroom the first day" rule. They know what works :) Don't worry, encourage him and expect him to do fine.

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answers from Miami on

Take him to the school and walk the halls. Show him the kindergarten rooms. Has he seen the kinders there? That would help. Take him to the playground on a Saturday so that he can get used to outside (find out where the kinders play.) Take him to meet the guidance counselor. Prep her as far as his "slow to warm to new situations" is concerned and ask her to take him under her wing and be friendly with him. Since you don't know which teacher he will have, he needs one person there who he knows and who will check on him here and there.

Has he seen kids get on the school bus? Take a look at this link and get some of these books from the library or from

I also like The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round, though it's about buses in general. If you get this book, get the CD too - the song is GREAT! Children LOVE singing it.

Check this out for introducing kids to kindergarten:

I remember loving Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten. The Berenstain Bears books, though a bit old fashioned, are great too, for all kinds of situations, including The Berenstain Bears Go to School.

The best thing you can do is be excited about him going. Tell him how proud you are that he's going to be a kindergartner. Tell him how much you loved kindergarten when you were his age.

Find out from the school if the kindergartners nap during the day. If they do, you need to institute "quiet time" in his room at the same time at home. It's important that he is used to this so that he doesn't fight laying down. If he does still nap, try to get his naptime to be the same time the kindergarten naps.

Kinder readiness is pretty important. Ask the school to give you a handout of what they want kids to ideally know when they come to kinder. Don't worry if he can't do it all. Some kids don't learn to tie their shoes until they are in first grade. You can also use velcro shoes if you need to. Having him practice manipulatives such as puzzles, learning geometric figures like circles, squares, rectangles and cylinders, and learning his colors will really help. Make sure he can use scissors. Fat pencils OR regular pencils with finger grips will help him too. Teach him to sing the ABC's and count to 20. If he can recognize the ABC's and numbers, that's splendid, but I doubt that the expect it of entering kinders.

Since you have him in preschool, he is used to having a teacher and being in a classroom with other kids. That's wonderful. In kinder, he'll get used to sitting at a desk and listening to the teacher that way. He'll get used to walking down the hall in a line and following more complicated directions. At home, try to work with him on two step directions. "Sweetie, bring mommy the crayon and then go put your train set in the toy box." That kind of thing. If he's just fine with that, try 3 step directions.

This summer, take him to plenty of places where there are other children. Don't hover over him. Pull out a book and pretend to read it so that he doesn't suspect that you are worrying over him. If you can put him in a children's class, like gymnastics, that would be great too. Just stay in the background - that will help him feel that he can be independent.

First day, put him on the bus. Take your camera, and make a big deal out of the fact that you're going to take his picture. Don't ask him if he wants to ride the bus. Make it perfectly clear that this is what kinders do. (Another reason to introduce the bus books.)

When he gets home from school, hug him and say "Tell me about your day!!" Have a snack ready for him and let him decompress some before doing a little homework the teacher assigns. Make sure you read to him every day.

I think he will be fine. You're thinking about it in advance and that's really helpful.

Good luck!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Austin on

I bet he is going to do great.

Our school also did not allow parents in the room the first day.. They met in the cafeteria each table marked with the teachers name.. The Teacher greeted them and then they all walked together to the room.

Things to work on.. As listed by other moms below. He should be to take care of his own care.

Being able to listen to a whole story without interrupting. Go to story time at the book store or local library.

Able to share.

Able to use lunch box or a lunch bag. Able to unwrap granola bar. Put a straw in a juice box or juice pouch. Open a carton of milk.

Work on his fine motor skills. they will be coloring, writing, using scissors. and lots of times, their fingers are a bit weak.. Look up fine motor skill therapies. It is a lot of fun to practice.

He does not have to have all of this perfect, but these are the skills he will need.

Take him to the school playground to get used to seeing the school. Ask the school office if there is a group for incoming kindergartners and their parents. .

At our school there is a welcoming group.. They meet once a month at the neighborhood bakery.. Or on the school playground.. Even in the summer.

This usually includes some current parents that have young children that will also be in Kindergarten.. They also try to match up the new incoming kinder parents to the families that are totally new to the school.

If your school does not already have anything like this.. see if you can start a group with some current parents.

This is a very exciting time for all of you!!!

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answers from Phoenix on

What comes to mind is the one thing that DD seemed overwhelmed with - the amount of kids in the school, class, on the playground at drop off. No amount of classes, preschool, etc. can demonstrate that environment effectively, so it's up to you to make sure he is aware of it and is comfy with it.

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answers from Redding on

I can't see the other answers but my son's school offered 4 kindergarten orientation classes for adults and kids. You could meet the teachers and the kids got to go into their classrooms for an hour and play.

If your son's school doesn't offer that, then take him to at least play on the playground on the weekends and try to find out from your pre school if any of those kids are going to the same school. If they are, then set up playdates with them at the school playground on the weekend.

Also, a couple of other things I wished I had thought about. I wouldn't throw my son into the school lunch program right away if I had it to do over again. Everything was new so to bring new food into an already anxious situation was asking a little much of him. So, for the first few weeks, I'd send him with his favorite foods that you know he'll eat rather than risk him being in an all day situation where he doesn't eat.

Also, just be aware that a full day of kindergarten wears them out a little more than 3 hours of pre school. My son started karate after school at the same time he started kindergarten and he was plum wore out by the end of the day and cranky. No fun. So, give him time to let his little body and brain catch up to the new schedule without adding a bunch of after school activities right away.

That's all I got and it really varies from kid to kid.



answers from Sacramento on

I'm sure you are talking with him about what to expect, and preparing him the best you can. Beyond that, you just have to accept that he is who he is, and his tendency to be slow to warm up is part of his own personality. Let him take care of those things in his own way and don't worry or try to 'rescue' him.
Our granson is in K this year. He is also slow to warm up and we've just started to notice him getting more into playing with the other children on his own. It took him this long to become good friends with one classmate and that has helped him. It is more frustrating to the parents (and grandparents) than it is to the kids. Trying to push him will likely only make things worse. Oh! And my ever present advice regarding dropping the child off in the morning,... Don't linger and cling. Whatever your routine is to say goodbye (hugs, kisses, or just saying goodbye) do it and leave. If you MUST stay around to see how he's doing, be sure to do that in a way that he doesn't realize you are still there.



answers from Sacramento on

The Kissing Hand is a great book about a little racoon going off to school and the jitters that come with that.

My daughter is the same way (very slow to warm and feel comfortable). You are a smart mama for recognizing and respecting his needs--bummer that the school is so clueless! Make the good-bye short and sweet and do your best to not feel anxiety...he'll pick up on that and take it and run with it!



answers from Sacramento on

I haven't read your other answers, but one thing that helped with our son was that we had an orientation the week before. The kids got to see the room, sit at the tables and explore what was around the room a bit while the parents got our orientation info. I would say, in your son's case, that you speak with the teacher that he will have and arrange a couple times for him to be in the classroom before the first day. I'm sure the teacher (I am guessing) would be open to that and want a good start for all of the kids the first day. I bet the first few days will be overwhelming for him but I'm sure he'll pull through. Good luck!!



answers from Sacramento on

All the children will be feeling like your son that first day, in varying degrees. Kindergarten teachers expect everything from tears to tantrums and a lot of "deer in the headlights" expressions looking back at them.

Most schools create an opportunity for kids to meet the teacher prior to the first day of school. Take advantage of what is offered and if your school doesn't have a program, call the office and ask to make an appointment with the teacher so they can meet. Playing at the kindergarten playground a few days before school starts is another good idea and you may run into a teacher or two while they are setting up their classrooms.

On the first day, get there early so he can see the other kids as they come in. Hopefully the teacher will be there greeting the students and their families. Try to find another boy in his class and strike up a conversation with his mother and let the boys warm up to each other. Even if they don't end up long term friends, at least it's a familiar face for those first few days.

A teacher once told me the first day is much harder on us parents than it is on the kids. He'll get through it fine.



answers from San Francisco on

You've already gotten a lot of good advice here but the I'd like to add a couple more thoughts. Like one other responder said, dont make a huge deal out of it. Don't make it the topic of every conversation. Read the books about going to K, talk about how the first day will go but keep the conversations brief, simple & to a minimum. You could possible over-prep him which could cause him to become more anxious. But key to all of this: DO NOT let him see any anxieties you may have. I know, easier said than done! He will very easily pick up on your feelings & that could make him more nervous. Also, keep your good byes short & sweet. A kiss, a hug, a 'have a great day,' & be off. Don't linger looking thru the windows, don't show up early & peek thru the windows. If he voices some unhappiness at the end of the day, don't over-react to it. Again short & sweet, 'Sorry that happened.' Get him to tell you the good things that happened & focus on the positives, not the negatives. Good luck!

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