7 Practical Ways To Prepare Your Child For DK, TK, Pre-K, 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. July 18, 2022

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

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

 Fly View Productions via Canva

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!

Enrique Ramos López via Canva

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 toilet paper and how to flush it 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 kids have become experts at hand washing but it doesn't hurt to reinforce this basic skill! Your child will be around many other oh so germy kids in TK, DK, 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.

SDI Productions via Canva

4. To zip or button jackets 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 or find easy to open kid friendly containers. My kids did better with screw-top ones. 

 Monkey Business Images via Canva 

6. Phone number 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. Pick-up plans after-school

Show them where you will meet them for pick up when you drop them off for school. Let them know who is going to pick them up when school is out? It's really useful if someone other than a primary guardian will be picking up your child at school to let your child know. 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 .... "

 FamVeld via Canva 

These are just a few of the practical things DK, TK, 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.