7 Practical Ways To Prepare Your Child For Pre-K and Kindergarten

How to tie their shoes, zip their jacket, and know your phone number ... just to start!

By Holli Carlin, publisher of Macaroni KID Cherry Hill, N.J. August 7, 2022

The first day of school is exciting for both kids and parents. For those parents with children starting pre-K or kindergarten, the day is especially bittersweet, nerve-wracking, and exciting ... all at the same time!

Of course, you'll get a school supply list, but here are seven other things kids should take with them into the classroom on that first day in pre-K or kindergarten. Believe me, your child's teacher will thank you! 

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7 things to teach your kids before they start pre-K or kindergarten:

1. To take off and put on their own shoes without help

Make sure kids can take off and put on their shoes all by themselves. Velcro is probably easiest for this young of an age group, but if they do have shoelaces make sure kids can tie them on their own. Also, show your child the difference in left and right shoes. If it helps, put a sticker of a lion in the left shoe and a sticker of a rabbit in the right. That alliteration can help them remember which shoe goes on which foot!

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2. To go to the bathroom (and wipe!) unassisted 

This one is tough because do kids really ever wipe properly until they are at least 11? Teach them how to use wet wipes and dry toilet paper and how to flush them down the toilet properly. Also, make sure kids can button their own pants — you'd be surprised how many kids are unable to do this themselves! If they haven't mastered that skill, send them to school in pants without buttons, like leggings or sweatpants.

3. To wash and dry their hands

Many pandemic-era kids have become experts at hand washing but it doesn't hurt to reinforce this basic skill! Your child will be around many other (germy) kids in pre-K & kindergarten so stress the importance of hand hygiene and how it combats germs. The CDC recommends you wash your hands for 20 seconds — about the time it takes a child to sing "Happy Birthday" two times while washing their hands.

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4. To zip and button coats on their own

Can you imagine being a teacher at the end of a school day when a dozen kids need help putting their jackets on? Teach your youngster how to zip up their own jacket and you are sure to impress the teacher! 

5. To open packets and containers for lunchboxes

We all love Bento lunch boxes and the cute little things we see on Pinterest. But sometimes cute isn't always practical. Make sure your child knows how to open the containers you send with them for lunch or snack. If you're an adult and have a hard time opening the container? Chances are your child will too! Practice over the summer with the containers you plan to send. 

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6. Their home phone number(s) and address

This is good to know for obvious reasons! Practice at home — one easy way to learn? Turn your phone number and address into a song — it'll be easier to remember and will be fun to sing together!

7. Who is going to pick them up from school

This is really useful if someone other than a primary guardian will be picking up your child at school. Letting your child know who is going to pick them up and teaching them their first and last names will be helpful for teachers and staff. Most schools require an approved pick up list from the parents, but it is especially helpful for your child to be able to say "My grandpa is picking me up. His name is (insert name here)."

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These are just a few of the practical things pre-K and kindergarten students should know before stepping foot in the classroom. We hope this list helps you prepare and calm your jitters before that first day! Good luck!

Holli Carlin is the publisher of Macaroni KID Cherry Hill, N.J.