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How to Support First-time Kindergarteners

Kindergarten Transition: 

Transition is another way to think about changes that occur in a child’s life. To make transitions successful, families and caregivers/educators need to share information.

They also need to focus on supportive relationships and ensure consistency and stability. Children, families, caregivers and educators have increased understanding of new expectations when they can practice adjusting to new environments. Helping children manage their feelings as they transition between different learning environments early in life can establish positive coping skills. These experiences will have far-reaching impacts beyond the early years. At any age, consider the following strategies to help children feel safe and supported during transitions.

This information is provided by the Colorado Department of Early Childhood. View the full PLAYbook for more information and activities that families can use to prepare children to be successful when entering kindergarten.

Two kindergarteners completing a worksheet
student plays with blocks

Maintain Routine: From birth, children’s days are filled with routines such as bedtime, mealtime and diapering. You can help children manage transitions by establishing predictable and familiar routines.

Be Responsive: When babies and children make attempts to communicate that they need help, respond as quickly as possible. Provide your response in a predictable and consistent manner. Responding to children’s needs in a timely and consistent way helps to develop secure relationships. Strong relationships are critical during transitions. Secure relationships with a familiar adult will make it easier for children to explore more comfortably and build attachments in new environments with new caregivers and friends. Additionally, secure relationships help build children’s ability to communicate their needs to adults and peers. They also help children believe that others will respond to their needs.

Use Visuals: Children’s ability to understand and use language can impact how they transition. Knowing children’s language skill level and the language(s) they speak is helpful to understand how to support them. Using visual aids and prompts can help all children, not just those with limited language skills. Visuals will help children better prepare for the changes coming next. Change can be easier to accept when we know what is coming. For example, show children a picture of their new classroom or school. Use visual schedules with older children to illustrate what’s happening during the day.

Be a Role Model: You can help children develop their own coping skills by modeling your own positive social behavior during times of stress. Label when you feel stressed, overwhelmed and scared for children. Model the use of words to describe feelings. Share a time you were scared of something new and what you did to feel more comfortable. Model strategies to handle stress and manage your own emotions and behavior. Show choices children can copy such as taking a walk together, talking to a friend or listening to calming music.