The Transition to Kindergarten

children sit around a table working on an art project with leaves

As early childhood educators, we recognize that much of our work is helping children build a foundation that will empower them and enable them to take on new challenges as they grow up and out of our programs. Research shows that healthy development in early childhood helps prepare children for the educational experiences of kindergarten and beyond (Currie, 2005. “Health disparities and gaps in school readiness”), and that so much of that development is connected to an environment of healthy and secure relationships.

As a social-constructivist program, we recognize the importance of relationships and how they support children as they construct their understanding of the world. Through trusting relationships with the adults in their lives, children feel safe to explore and discover while their natural curiosity and eagerness to learn is nurtured. As they connect with other children, they are not only expanding their knowledge and learning from the experiences of others, but they are developing the vital social skills that are necessary to communicate and collaborate in our society.

Yet often, as we discuss the idea of preparing children for kindergarten, the focus is not on these essential social emotional skills but on academic expectations. A study done by the University of Virginia in 2016 showed an alarming change in our expectations of kindergarten students and a shift away from developmentally appropriate practice, spending less time on child-led investigations and creative thinking and more time on math and literacy instruction (Bassak, Latham & Rorem, 2016. “Is Kindergarten the New First Grade?”).

It is natural to want to prepare for the next step, to want to support our children as they start their elementary education, but what are we losing when we focus so much on what is coming that we miss what is happening right now? Kindergarten is supposed to be this time of transition- — it is the year given to children to help them move from early childhood education and into elementary education. Not only with intentional planning, but also by giving their bodies and minds the time they need to develop! We do not gain anything by pushing children to do something they are not yet ready for, we merely deny them the experience of learning a new skill from a positive, intrinsically motivated space.

As we are thinking about our children transitioning from preschool to kindergarten, we need to be looking at all areas of development. Being ready for kindergarten means being able to cope with the school environment, physically, socially, emotionally, and academically. We are raising children to think, care, and wonder, and as they take this first step into school, we want them to enter with joy and excitement to learn. We want them to have teachers who nurture their love of learning, so they remain engaged and motivated as they continue through their school years.

So, what can you do to support your child? Talk through routines and schedules with your children and stick to them. Teach consequences so they can both understand the cause and effect of their decisions, learn how to problem-solve, and manage their emotions when needed. Help them build self-regulation skills by acknowledging feelings and modeling and supporting ways to regulate. Manage your expectations — if you are not sure what is developmentally appropriate, ask their teachers (or call us!). Most importantly, focus on your relationship with them. Spend time reading together, playing together, and listening to their ideas. As they enter the school system, you are their best advocate!

Remember that it is through relationships that we are all learning — so get to know their teachers, ask questions, and build mutual understanding. Together, you are building a trusting environment in which your children can thrive.

As the saying goes, “it takes a village.” Whether they currently attend our ECC or not, you and your children are a part of our community and are always welcome to reach out and connect with us and our team of educators!