When it comes time for your child to leave preschool and head to kindergarten, it may seem overwhelming. In the months ahead of the transition, many parents end up asking the same question, “What do I need to do to prepare my child for kindergarten?”

Phyllis DiFrancia, Director of the School Readiness program at Children’s Learning Centers of Fairfield County (CLC) is sharing her tips!

Focus on Independence

DiFrancia says that the most important thing is that your child feels independent with strong self-help skills. That includes the ability to do things like put on their own shoes and coat, go to the bathroom, wash and dry their hands on their own. Being able to complete these tasks independently allows your child to be independent in school. “We want them to feel confident. We don’t want the teacher to single out the child to help,” she explains.

Remember that your child’s kindergarten classroom is larger, with less teachers than their preschool classroom. So, having these self -help skills will be beneficial for both children and teachers.

Don’t Get Caught Up In Teaching Academics

It can be easy for parents to get caught up in teaching children academics. But, DiFrancia says that should be less of a concern, as teachers will teach your child things like reading, writing and math. Going into kindergarten, she encourages that children have basic knowledge of things like where they live and their first and last name. But, she says that teaching them to be polite and use manners, as well as practicing cooperation and sharing will be most helpful when they enter kindergarten. Since school is about being part of a group, this will help them to prepare for that.

Make Sure You Feel Comfortable

When parents feel comfortable about their child’s environment it helps the child feel more at ease. DiFrancia urges parents to be proactive in making yourselves comfortable with your child’s new school. Attend open houses, when the school reaches out with information about your child’s teacher and their email, introduce yourself and get to know your child’s bus driver. Doing this will give you a sense of connection and make the transition to kindergarten a little easier for both you and your child. It will also help your child to feel confident, comfortable and calm if they have the opportunity to visit before the first day. That way they have a picture in their head of what the room will look like

Read About Kindergarten

There are many books out there about getting ready for kindergarten. Read them with your child! The Night Before Kindergarten by Natasha Wing, Kindergarten Rocks! by Katie Davis, Countdown to Kindergarten by Alison McGhee and Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten by Joseph Slate are a few of DiFrancia’s favorites.

She says that the most important thing about reading these books with your child is that it gives the two of you time together. The books and stories may also bring up questions. Ask your child questions like, how do you feel about going to kindergarten? This is a great way to talk with your child about their feelings and what they think kindergarten will be like.

Give them Reasonable Choices

Kids don’t have a choice when it comes to going to kindergarten. However, DiFrancia says it will help to give them some reasonable choices about their day so that they feel like they have some control. Allow them to choose things like their backpack, shirt and what they’re having breakfast.

While teaching your child manners and self-help skills can start any time, DiFrancia encourages parents to really begin talking to children about kindergarten and reading books about it, around two weeks before the first day. This will give them time to get used to the idea, but not so much time that it becomes confusing.