HomeHealth & BehaviorSocial Skills

Jinx the kindergarten jitters

Prepare your kindergartner for the start of school with activities, stories, and just plain talk about the exciting journey ahead.

By GreatSchools Staff

You can prepare your child for kindergarten by practicing the academic-readiness skills expected of young students as well as helping him emotionally and socially, says Nikki Salvatico, a first-grade teacher at General Wayne Elementary School in Malvern, Pa., and the state's 2005 Teacher of the Year. Here's what she recommends:

1. Check out the school's Web site. Share some of the interesting activities and pictures from the Web site with your child.

2. Visit the new school several times over the summer. Often tours are offered by administrators to help familiarize your child with the various places in the school such as the library, classroom, and nurse's office.

3. Set up playtimes on the school playground. You can do this with some of the other children entering the kindergarten program. This will establish an automatic support system and help your child become familiar with new surroundings.

4. Create a routine at home to help get your child in the habit of following directions. Let your child know, for example, that every day when she comes home from camp or the pool, she should hang up her backpack, put away her belongings, and get packed for the next day.

5. Give your child developmentally appropriate chores at home and hold him accountable for doing them. These could include feeding a pet, putting clothes in the hamper, cleaning up toys, making his bed, or helping to bring in the groceries. These types of activities will transfer over into the classroom and help your child feel successful and comfortable.

6. Try to meet the teacher before school starts. You may be able to spend some time in the classroom to orient your child to her new surroundings.

7. Set up a few playdates or a parent and kindergartner luncheon to meet new friends. Invite fellow kindergartners in the neighborhood or ask at the school if you can have a list of phone numbers of other families who will be attending the school.

8. Establish a "goodbye routine" with your child. You can practice the routine when you leave to go to the store or when you have a babysitter. This will help your child know you are coming back and make saying goodbye on the first day of school easier for everyone. For example: Hug. Kiss. Say bye-bye. "I will see you at 11:30 when you get off the bus and school is over! Have a great day!" Then walk away and take a deep breath knowing that your child is in good hands.

9. Take pictures of the teacher, the classroom, the playground, the office and the front of the building. Make a book or poster with labels that you can read with your child to him to talk through any anxiety.

10. Read stories relating to the first day of school and school jitters. Reading about the experience of others will help your child feel less fearful about what's ahead.

Comments from readers

"My son is going to pre-k and I am very nervous about it. Being a first time single parent I find it hard to be apart from my son. How do I adjust? And also how do I make my son adjust going to school. "
"These are great ideas! Parents, remember that your kids pick up on your worries or anxiety so if you are feeling anxious about your child starting kindergarten, they might get worried, too. Try to keep your routine as normal as possible in the weeks leading up to kindergarten (for example, don't go on a weeklong vacation and then start school the next day). Kids do best when the people around them are calm and assured so be brave and know that your child is going to do great in kindergarten!"
"A great resource for helping prepare children for the transition to Kindergarten is Kindergarten Countdown, a DVD that shows real kindergarten classrooms and reall kids answering questions kids have about starting school. See more about the video at"
"These ideas are great. I wish that someone had helped me with them 56 years ago when I started school in Kindergarten. I thought they were saying 'Kiddie-GARDEN' and I was sorely disappointed when I entered the room and found not a single pile of dirt to play in! That did it. I hated school. (Eventually, I got a college degree, but those first days were rougher than they needed to be.)"
"This was a helpful article. It let me know I am on the right track with what I am doing to help my son prepare for kindergarten. He is excited about going. Thanks."
"Great article. My son is starting Pre-School, so this article helps me to know what to do to help him. It is just like he is starting big school to."
"I don't have thoughts regarding this article right now, I only have to ask for advise. I will be moving in within the next 2 months, most likely the move in will be for Oct. 1st. What should I do now? Should I start him in the school around the corner and then move him in a short time or take him to the new area school and start there so there is less stress? I think I should call the new school to ask also. To see in regards to stipulations if I just start him late? That is probably not a good idea. He is my first & he is very happy about moving/Kindergarten. I just want to make it all the smoothest transitions I possibly can. I will appreciate immensly any and all information/feedback. Thank you."
"My daughter Nikki was very fearful the night before she started kindergarten. Her fears centered around being new in the school and not knowing anyone in her class. 'I'm afraid nobody will play with me. I don't have any friends there.' With her obsession and fears with the first day of school made it impossible for her to sleep. I made up an exercise for her to do. 1) Blow out all your worries into an imaginary balloon. I used my hands to indicate the balloon getting bigger and bigger as she blew. I asked her what color it was. 2) Tie a knot in the imaginary balloon and send it up through the roof and to the sky, and to God. 3) God then takes the balloon and used his magic to turn it into something wonderful that he then sends down to you. 4) Ask your child what did the balloon change into. This worked great and she was able to sleep that night. The first day of school was exciting and worry free."