The move to kindergarten is a big step for little ones, especially when they'll be entering a new environment with unfamiliar faces. Experts say it's best to ease them into the transition over the summer months and to provide social experiences for them.

"The biggest factor for Ella was realizing she was going to go to kindergarten with all brand new friends," says Marlie, Ella's mom. "I am planning on taking her to the back-to-school ice cream social and making friends with other moms and their little girls," she says.

With several weeks to go before school starts, there's plenty of time for play dates and outings where you can get social together. It's time!

TALK THROUGH IT

One of the best ways to help your little one look forward to the big, new world of BIG SCHOOL is to talk about it.

"Help your child prepare for the actual transition to kindergarten by talking about what will happen," says Ann Barbour, a professor of early childhood education and author of Learning at Home, PreK-3: Homework Activities That Engage Children and Families (Corwin; 2009).

"What will her new routine be like? What friends will also be there? Reading library books about starting kindergarten can start conversations about this step in your child's life," Barbour adds.

It's natural for you to have your own concerns about the start of kindergarten, but this really should be a happy, positive time, Barbour says. Find ways to make it enjoyable such as shopping for a first day of school outfit, new shoes and a new lunch box.

Keep your concerns to yourself, Barbour says. Your child will be better off for it.

"Encourage questions and expressions of feelings, and be careful not to transmit any worries you may have," Barbour says. Encourage the upbeat talk about all of the fun aspects of school.

To help make your child's move to kindergarten easy, visit your child's new school and point out some of the ways the new classroom is similar to a prior preschool class. Most importantly, don't lose sight on just having enjoying time with your soon-to-be kindergartner.

"Even as you anticipate the start of kindergarten together, take time to enjoy your child," says Barbour. "Play together. Go places together. Read and talk together. In the process, you'll be encouraging his enthusiasm for learning and helping him get off to a great start!" she adds.

THINGS TEACHERS HOPE TO SEE

Sometimes it's the littlest things that trip up young children when they first start school. They may not be allowed to just get up and use the bathroon, for instance. Here are the things teachers want your kids to have mastered before day one:

• Your child can open the lunch containers you provide
• Your child is capable of following simple instructions
• Your child can button, zip, snap and do everything else that comes with dressing himself
• Your child knows how to look after his own things
• Your child can recognize his own name and even write it
• Your child can use the bathroom by himself
• Your child is familiar with being read to. You read to your child a lot!
• Your child is OK being away from you for a long period of time
• Taking turns when needing to talk
• Being able to raise your hand with a question
 


BOOKS FOR KINDERGARTEN PREP

Check out one of these books from your local library or purchase through Amazon.

Look Out, Kindergarten, Here I Come! By Nancy Carlson Puffin Books

Countdown to Kindergarten By Alison McGhee; Illustrated by Harry Bliss HMH Books for Young Readers

Will I Have a Friend? By Miriam Cohen; Illustrated by Lillian Hoban Aladdin

If You Take a Mouse to School By Laura Numeroff; Illustrated by Felicia Bond HarperCollins

The Night Before Kindergarten By Natasha Wing; Illustrated by Julie Durrell Grosset & Dunlap

Kindergarten Rocks! By Katie Davis HMH Books for Young Readers

First Day Jitters By Julie Danneberg; Illustrated by Judy Love Charlesbridge