Preparing Your Preschooler for Kindergarten - Kimberly Thompson

Your sweet little toddler or preschooler is going to be a cute kindergartener in just a few short years. Here are some suggestions from the kindergarten teacher’s point of view on how to emotionally prepare her for kindergarten.

When preparing your child for school always keep in mind that the teacher is sharing her time with a group of children, not just one or two children.

• Personal needs: Make sure your child can take care of her restroom needs independently. It is also helpful if they can zip or button their pants and coat. Reassure your child that if she does have trouble in the restroom not to panic. The teacher will help her if there is a restroom emergency.

• Following directions: Following directions at school will help your child during the learning process and keep her safe.  To help her with the learning process, practice giving your child two and three part directions. “Go to your room, get your socks, then bring them to me.”  This will be helpful when the teacher gives the class directions explaining an activity. For safety’s sake, your child must be willing to follow a direction that sounds more like a command. “Do not go into the street.”, “Do not pet the strange dog on the playground.” or “Walk quietly during the fire drill.” Keeping your child safe is the teacher’s most important job. At times these commands may sound harsh, because there is danger around. Getting your child accustomed to commands will help her understand that the teacher is not being unkind, but is just keeping her safe


• Respect: Generally parents think when a teacher mentions respect she is talking about herself and certainly that is important. However, there are other types of respect in the classroom, such as respect for the other children, their materials and their belongings. They should always ask before they use things that do not belong to them, such as backpacks, crayons, and pencils. Practice at home. Your child may know it is ok to read her brother’s book, but it is respectful to ask if she may use it.


• Following rules: Rules in a classroom are in place to create a safe and peaceful environment for your child. Within the classroom there are often school rules mixed with teacher rules. It has been my observation that allowing your child to negotiate rules at home will also teach her that it is alright to negotiate the rules at school. For example: Rule: No candy, gum or toys at school unless the teacher gives it to you. If you allow your daughter to negotiate bringing her favorite doll to school, it will ultimately cause a problem for her once she gets there. The moment she pulls the doll out of her backpack, you have made the teacher the bad guy. The teacher has to go over the rule and then take the doll away until the end of the day or make your child put the doll back in her backpack without allowing her to show the class her doll. There will be tears and a very sad little girl. The teacher has to establish with the children that there are rules and they must be followed. Just say no to your child and remind them of the rule. Being consistent will make your life and your child’s experience at school so much happier.

• Sharing: Sharing happens constantly in kindergarten. If your child shares willingly with other children it will make her time in kindergarten a place of fun. She will enjoy learning in groups while sharing a book, math manipulatives and IPads. There is nothing better than seeing kindergarteners sharing knowledge. Start going to the public library with a friend to enjoy story time, a trip to a children’s museum, a park and other places where the children must share and wait their turn. Also invite a friend over to play at your house. A child who is willing to share their own toys is a winner!


• Listening: Being a good listener is very important. It can make the difference between success and frustration at school. How can your child be successful if she doesn’t know what to do on an activity because she wasn’t listening? If your child isn’t listening what is she doing? Is she bothering the children around her? Are her actions slowing the educational process because the teacher is having to redirect her? There are ways you can help your child become a good listener. At dinner have everyone take turns talking about what they did that day without anyone interrupting them. You can also make a sharing jar with questions in it. At night before you go to bed pull a question from the sharing jar and everyone answers the question without being interrupted. Make the questions silly or serious. Mix it up, for example, “What is your favorite animal at the zoo?”, “What is your favorite day of the week and why?” or “Tell us something that makes you sad.” This will encourage family discussions and help your child learn to listen without interrupting and to wait her turn.


• Separation: On the first day of kindergarten your child is left with a person she has probably only seen one time in her life. You say all the right things, “You will have fun.” “You will meet some new friends.” You will get to play on the fun playground.” Despite all your efforts, here come the tears and your child telling you that you are all wrong. Stop and think: Has your child ever been left with anybody? Does your child know that another adult is capable of taking care of her? Does your child know from experience that when you leave her somewhere that you or someone else she knows and loves will pick her up? These are such important things for your child to know. It builds her confidence and self-esteem. She will work happily at school not worried about dismissal, because she knows you or someone she loves will be there to pick her up at the end of the day. Start leaving her with family, then move on to trusted friends and then Mother’s Day Out. The goal is to make sure you are the only one with a tear in your eye as your confident child happily waves good bye and assures you that she will be in the car pick up line at dismissal.

About our guest author:


Marybeth Porter graduated from Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas with a Bachelor of Arts in Teaching. She also holds certifications in kindergarten, early childhood and special education. She taught in public school in Texas for 37 years, all in kindergarten, first and second grades. Her primary experience is in kindergarten and first grade. She retired in 2014 and now volunteers her time at Sugar Mill Elementary in Sugarland, Texas because she loves working with the children. Marybeth says that working with the children and watching them grow in knowledge and confidence is the best part of teaching. She would like to thank Stephanie Clayton, Tami Cohn, Megan Lawley, Millicent Flitcraft, and Jessica Boysen, the kindergarten teachers at Sugar Mill Elementary (pictured below!) for their input with this article.


     I am Dr. Kimberly Thompson, a clinical psychologist in private practice in Lubbock, Texas. I work with mothers and their children to help them heal, grow, and live their most vibrant lives. My particular expertise is pregnant and postpartum women, and moms of “littles.” My book, Perfect Mothers Get Depressed, is available on Amazon and from Praeclarus Press. If you live within driving distance of Lubbock, you can work with me face-to-face; if you live anywhere else in the state of Texas, you can work with me via online therapy. Send me a message if you need more information, or call my office at (806) 224-0200 if you’re ready to book an appointment.