Voluntary pre-kindergarten (VPK) programs are designed to support your child’s growth and development during some of the most formative times of their childhood. The social skills and education a child gains in a VPK program can help them succeed in kindergarten and beyond.
But for many children, the transition from a VPK to kindergarten can come with some bumps, twists, and turns. Children often have some challenges adapting to the new environment and routine of kindergarten, and many need time to develop the stamina necessary for a longer school day.
You can do many things as a parent or early childhood educator to ensure a smoother transition from VPK to kindergarten. This article will explore some of the potential challenges of beginning kindergarten and how to best prepare young children to thrive in this new stage of life.
Reach out to the team at New Horizons now to learn about our high-quality VPK programs or to schedule a visit.
How to Help Your Child Transition From VPK to Kindergarten
The start of kindergarten can bring up a mixture of emotions for kids and caregivers alike. Children may feel anxious about the unknown or excited to start “big kid school” and everything in between. Parents and caregivers may share these mixed emotions, sometimes feeling proud and excited about this significant change and sometimes feeling sad about letting go of the toddler and preschool phases of their child’s life.
Whatever the emotions your family is feeling about the transition from VPK to Kindergarten, it’s a good idea to understand common challenges and prepare for them. Here are some of the things you can do to make the transition into kindergarten as smooth as possible.
Talk about it
One of the most important things parents can do to support their child as they transition from VPK to kindergarten is simply talk to your child about it. Tell them what will happen, where they will learn, use the bathroom, and eat lunch. Let them know how they will get to and from school. Go over a daily schedule of kindergarten activities if you have one.
Listen to your child’s questions and give them space to share their feelings. If you don’t know the answer to their questions, find it and give this information to your child.
If you feel anxious or uncertain about your child’s transition into kindergarten, your child will likely pick up on your feelings. Remain calm and positive when talking about going to kindergarten. Don’t ignore their big feelings or worries. Empathize with your child, but reassure them that they are capable and will always have help at school when needed.
Learn about kindergarten
Read age-appropriate books and stories about going to kindergarten. If your school has a website or social media accounts, show your child pictures of current students and teachers engaging in daily activities or special events.
Many children feel anxious about what they do not know. The more information you can provide before transitioning to kindergarten, the more confident they will feel when it’s their turn to go.
Visit the school
Many elementary schools offer open houses or registration events that allow families to visit before starting school. Attend these events or request a tour of the school before the start of the school year.
Practice walking from the entrance to their classroom, cafeteria, gym, and other spaces within the school. Spend time with your child’s teacher. Find your child’s cubby or hook, and practice using the bathroom at school. The more time your child can spend in the school before the start of the year, the more confident they’ll feel when they begin.
Get into a new routine
The start of kindergarten usually means getting into a brand-new routine. Children may have to wake up earlier to ride the bus and may spend time in before or after-school care. Waiting until the last minute to adopt a new routine can be stressful for kids and parents. Instead, start practicing this new routine–including new bedtime and wake-up times–at least a week before the start of the school year.
Start a new tradition
Work with your child to develop a new tradition to mark the start of the school year. Having something to look forward to during the transition into the school year can reduce some of the anxiety that can pop up. Some ideas include:
- Take a family picture on the first day of school
- Have a special breakfast or dinner on the first day of school
- Wear a certain color on the first day
- Create a unique handshake or high-five to do at drop-off
Focus on the fun of the day to boost your child’s confidence.
Prioritize rest and play
The transition from VPK to kindergarten doesn’t happen in a single day. While the first day of school can be a monumental milestone, your child will likely exhibit physical, emotional, and behavioral changes for several weeks–and sometimes even longer.
Avoid the urge to schedule new activities during the first few months of kindergarten. School will be tiring and demanding, so limit other sources of stress as much as possible. Dance classes, organized sports, and other things can wait until your child has adjusted to their new routine.
Practical things for parents
In addition to supporting your child’s emotional and physical needs during the transition into kindergarten, parents can do some concrete things to ensure a smooth start to the year. These include:
- Talking to your child’s teacher and the school nurse about allergies, medications, or other medical needs your child has
- Label all belongings, including your child’s extra clothing, lunchbox, and water bottle
- Sign up for any apps the school uses to communicate
- Return all necessary paperwork
Make sure you have a way to communicate with your child’s teacher, such as an email address or classroom phone number. Save this information, as well as the school’s main number, attendance line, and medical office.
Learn How to Have a Smooth Transition From VPK to Kindergarten
Reach out to the dedicated educators and staff at New Horizons now to learn how to make the transition from VPK to kindergarten as smooth as possible. Our high-quality VPK programs are designed to empower children and prepare them for success in school and beyond. Contact us now to learn more or schedule a visit.