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Preparing your kindergartner for the first day of school

With a little planning, your kindergartner's first day of school can be as easy as A, B, C.

By Marian Wilde

As the lazy days of summer slip away, it will soon be time to put away the beach chairs and corner lemonade stands and prepare your kindergartner for school. Here are some tips for making the transition easier.

Adjust to the new routine

Ease into the school-year schedule. Getting into a school routine can be a challenge for everyone in the family. To make adjusting to the new routine easier, start early.

  • A few weeks before school starts, move bedtime back to an earlier time.
  • Put a positive spin on going to school. Talk about the fun things your child will be learning, the friends he'll make.
  • If your child is anxious about starting school, reassure her that other children have these feelings too.
  • Don't make plans for big trips right before the start of school.
  • Establish school-day schedules for homework, TV, baths, and bedtime.
  • Arrange play-dates with children that are going to the same school to make connections or to create new ones.

Books help ease the transition

Reading books together about the first days of school is a good way to start conversations about the excitement and fears. To get you started, here are some suggestions for your kindergartner:

  • Berenstain, Stan and Jan. The Berenstain Bears Go to School. Random House, 1978
  • Bridwell, Norman. Clifford's First School Day. Scholastic, 1999
  • Carlson, Nancy. Look Out Kindergarten, Here I Come. Harcourt Children's Books, 1999
  • Davis, Katie. Kindergarten Rocks! Harcourt Children's Books, 2005
  • Penn, Audrey. The Kissing Hand. Child & Family Press, 1993
  • Rey, H.A. and Margret. Curious George's First Day of School. Houghton Mifflin, 2005

Get organized

Take advantage of the slower pace during your time away from school to set up for the busy school year ahead.

  • Many schools send out school information and a packet of forms to fill out before school starts. If you can discipline yourself to fill out the paperwork several days before it's due, you'll avoid a last-minute panic.
  • Have the necessary immunization records available for easy reference.
  • Prepare a school emergency contact and health information for the coming year.
  • As you read through all the school information, mark important dates (such as back-to-school night, parent-teacher conference week, and school holidays) on the family calendar.
  • Start a folder for school newsletters and other papers so that you can easily find them and refer to them if necessary.
  • Establish a "Get Ready the Night Before" policy. Pick clothes for the next day and pack the backpack every evening before bedtime and you'll save precious time in the morning.

Comments from readers

"I really appreciate the information given in this....really useful to everyone who are sending their kids for the first time...Thanks."
"My child will be attending kindergarten this september. This article was very helpful to me in getting her ready for the big day. Thank you for the great tips and idea!"
"My children get up naturally at 6:00 to 6:30 and they go to bed at about 7:45 every night. My daughter is 3 and my son is 5. You might want to start waking her up 10 min earlier every day until your daughter wakes up at 6:20ish. After a few weeks of being woken up at this time she will probably start waking up on her own at this time. I find it takes my son, who is 5, about a hour to wake up, eat breakfast, brush his teeth and hair, get dressed and actually be in the car. You will probably want to plan on leaving the house at 7:20 so that you won't be rushed and if you daughter has to do something, like run back into the house to use the bathroom at the last minute, she won't miss the bus. Best of luck!"
"My only question is my daughter has to get on the bus at 7:30. She currently flexuates between what time she wakes up. Her normal bed time is 7:30pm and she wakes up from 6:30 to 7am. I'm planning on moving her bedtime to get her up on time. I don't want her to be woken up so she's not starting off bad. She's getting enough sleep. What do other parents or doctors suggest as a bedtime for a 5 1/2 yr old girl starting kindergarten. thanks"