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

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

By Holli Carlin, publisher of Macaroni KID Cherry Hill, N.J. July 25, 2022

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

Here are seven practical skills kids should take with them into the classroom on that first day. Believe me, your child's teacher will thank you! 

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1. The ability 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 age group, but if they do have shoes with laces, make sure your child can tie them on their own. 

Also, show your child the difference between left and right shoes. If it helps, put a sticker of a lion inside the left shoe and a sticker of a rabbit inside the right one. The alliteration can help them remember which shoe goes on which foot!

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

This one is tough. 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. How 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, 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. Zipping and buttoning coats on their own

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

5. How 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. 

Ensure your child knows how to open the containers you send with them for lunch or snack time. If you're an adult and have difficulty opening the container, chances are your child will too! Practice over the summer with the containers you plan to use. 

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6. Memorize their home phone number(s) and address

This is good to know for obvious reasons, so practice at home. Turn your phone number and address into a song — it'll be easier to remember and fun to sing together!

7. Knowing who will pick them up from school

This is especially useful if someone other than a primary caregiver will be picking up your child at school. Letting your child know who will 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 beneficial 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 practical things preschool and kindergarteners 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!