Kindergarten 101

by Heather Kendrick

There are certain rites of passage that I am proud to have survived as a mother. The first few weeks home from the hospital when no one is sleeping. The Terrible Two’s. The “I can do it myself” phase, where you are 10 minutes late for your whole life for six months. And then there’s kindergarten.

Kindergarten is a big step for the child and the parents. I have now survived kindergarten twice. Both times the emotional anticipation was far worse than the actual event itself. That being said, kindergarten is not something for parents to take lightly. It’s a big change for a family to start having kids in school.

One of my biggest blessings in life has been to have wonderful friends walking this journey of motherhood alongside me. Some are slightly ahead, some a little bit behind, but we are all on the same road. It is invaluable to have people you can talk with, ask questions to and get encouragement from. It truly takes a village to raise children!

I asked my friends in my village to give me their best advice on kindergarten and compiled a list of all the things we wish we would have known and the things we learned when we were sending our kids off to school for the first time. These are our best tips for all of you moms, dads, grandparents and guardians — our Kindergarten 101.


Stock up on supplies. Yes, you need them all. Get the list from your child’s school. Shop early. Get extras because you’ll need them later. Follow instructions for labeling. Then bring them to open house so they’ll be all ready to go the first day.

Get ready.

Have your child practice writing his/her first name with a capital letter before he/she goes to school. Kindergarten teachers say reading together, practicing holding a pencil correctly and using fingers to count to 10 are great things to work on. Most importantly, make sure your child can recognize his/her name. Kids feel confident walking into the room if they can find their place.

Prepare for emergencies.

Teach your child his/her address, parents’ names and phone numbers. Write your cell number with a sharpie on the inside of their backpack, just in case they forget in a stressful situation.

Practice makes perfect.

Work on things like shoe tying, zipping/unzipping clothing, bathroom training and opening lunch packages on their own. These things take time and are stressful for new kindergartners. Keep practicing them at home!

Do business beforehand.

If there are any issues you would like to discuss with the school — learning concerns, behavior issues, health habits, etc. — do this before the first day of school. Teachers will be very busy that first morning and can’t give you their full attention.

Meet the teacher.

Different schools do different things for this. Some do “Kindergarten Camp” and some do a “Teacher Meet and Greet” — but make sure you and your child feel confident and comfortable before the big day!


Plan extra time at home that morning. Take pictures. Think about fun first day celebrations that you may want to start. There are all kinds of ideas out there for back-to-school traditions. Make the first day special!

Once you get to school, don’t linger. Make goodbyes quick and happy. If you need to have a “sad mommy moment,” do that by yourself, in the car, afterward.

Prepare your child for lunchtime. The little ones have to figure out how to unpack and open their lunch and get it eaten under a time deadline. This can be a hard adjustment. Plus, sometimes the cafeteria can seem chaotic, especially in the beginning. Consider putting a special note in the lunchbox.

Wear the right shoes. If your child can’t tie his own shoes, consider wearing shoes that don’t tie. And send them to school in tennis shoes! They are running and playing! Playgrounds are not good for cute sandals.

Brace yourself for the after-school pick-up line. Bring a snack. Or two. The traffic after school will be bad the first few days.

You’ll be dying to see your child, but it will take you a while to get there. Be patient. And leave early to get in line especially the first few days.

Make it an early night. Celebrate the day with a family dinner. (My rule is “Mom doesn’t cook on the First Day of School,” but that’s just me!) Then get in bed early and get some extra rest. You’ll all be exhausted, and you have to turn around and do it all over again tomorrow!

Heather Kendrick is the communication specialist for Conway Public Schools.