Ensuring a Positive Transition Back to School

You have marked the calendar, purchased school supplies, but the day is not coming soon enough for children excited to return to school!

Entering a new school year is an opportunity to approach learning with fresh excitement and vigor.  Children want to use their talents, follow their interests and share their learning with you.  Use these final days of summer to create memories which will last a lifetime. Read, Learn, and Create!

Whether your child is entering school for the first time or returning for another year, here are five things you can do to help your child mentally prepare for the challenging rigors of the upcoming school year:

  1. Get Reading. Beginning in infancy, reading together builds language acquisition and literacy skills. A recent study demonstrated significant literacy gains in children ages 4-5 who were read to three to five times a week putting them approximately 6 months ahead of their peers in reading.  Those who were read to daily tested a full year ahead of those who were read to less frequently (Huffington post, 2013).  The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) upholds, “Reading aloud is important from infancy through the high school years. Families and teachers can create and continue a tradition, introduce and reinforce the pleasures of reading, and, as children get older, set the stage for meaningful conversations about numerous topics.” (Koralek, 2005).  Well-read children enjoy a rich vocabulary, improved communication skills, increased knowledge of a wide range of topics, improved attention spans and are more self-confident than their lesser-read peers.
  2. Observe and Ask “What if” questions. Your life experiences have increased your knowledge base and enabled you to think critically, problem-solve, and improve on a plan of action. When children are creating, building, and playing they are constantly planning, building, and re-designing.  When you step back and observe, you may be amazed at the complex problem-solving strategies your child is already employing.  By asking simple “What if” questions like, “What if you put that piece there?” or “What if you encounter…?” you are enabling your child to creatively develop other contingencies she may not have thought about initially.  You are effectively using your life experiences to increase her knowledge base.
  3. Capitalize on their Interests. Is your child interested in animals? How do things work? Outer space? Head to the library to conduct some research together. Take a trip to explore and learn about whatever topic your child is most interested in.  Go online to find resources so your child can learn more about a given topic.  Children are motivated learners when they are investigating something of their own choosing.  Invite them to communicate their learning by creating a picture book to show younger siblings or have them put together a short presentation for the family.
  4. Learn a New Skill. Given the opportunity, what would you like to learn? If you had time, oh let’s say a summer break, what new thing would you try? Summer, whatever is left of it, is the perfect opportunity to learn something new: coding, cooking, acting, or a new sport. This is your child’s opportunity to begin a new school year saying, “Look at what I have learned.” Many hobby and hardware stores offer free classes for children and adults on a regular basis.
  5. Create Something New. Is it a bird? A plane? No, it’s “something new!”The sky is the limit!  Children are SO creative.  Encourage your child to experiment, investigate, problem-solve. Children do not have to wait until the spring science fair to begin working through the scientific method. Encourage your child to ask questions, look for answers, experiment, and discover solutions.  Have him create hypotheses, test theories, and draw conclusions. 

Now you may be thinking, “What can I do to help my child get excited about his/her new school?” Here are a few ideas on how to emotionally prepare your child and family for the transition back to school!

  • Talk positively with children about going to school. Discuss what it means, what to expect, and what he or she will be doing.
  • Talk about school. Discuss the school’s features, activities, teachers and how much fun your child will have with his or her new friends.
  • Be prepared to answer questions. Don’t be surprised if your child asks about seemingly minor or even nonsensical details especially if this is the first time he or she is will be spending time away from you.
  • Bring your in your child for a visit so he or she can see the classroom and meet the teacher. Consider arranging for your child to visit for a few hours to get a feel for the program. If a visit is not possible, share photos of the school.
  • Establish morning routines early on. Go through similar steps each morning as you prepare for the day.  Plan on providing yourself an extra 10 minutes during this transitional time to help your child get adjusted once they arrive. Even if your child transitions well, everyone will feel more settled by not being so rushed.
  • Send positive signals when saying good-bye. You may feel sad as a parent, but all expressions to your child should say, “Yay, you are going to have SO MUCH FUN!” Your child will get many of their cues on how to respond to the situation from the way you are acting.
  • Create a good-bye ritual. Consider a special good-bye handshake or a hug-kiss-high-five routine which will make your child smile before saying good-bye.  Practice this ritual with your child prior to the first day of dropping-off.  It may be tempting to sneak away when a child is distracted, but this can cause stress for your child throughout the rest of the day. Acknowledging the good-bye and letting them know you will return builds trust.
  • Avoid the urge to linger or return. Your actions can convey anxiety to your child, making him or her more uncomfortable with you leaving. Our teachers are trained to engage children helping them ease into their new routines.


The feeling of separation can be emotionally challenging for child and parent alike. Parents may feel upset at separating from their child because of their child’s reaction, their own feelings, or a combination of the two. There are several proactive measures parents can take to support a more positive experience:

  • Become Familiar with the Center or School. Get to know the environment and your child’s teacher as much as possible before the first day so you feel comfortable leaving your child in that setting.
  • Consider a “Warm Up” Visit. Bring your child in for a few hours on a day when you do not have to rush off to work.  Enable your child the opportunity to meet some of the other children, meet the teacher, and play with the toys in the classroom.
  • Request contact. Ask the administrator to send an email or phone call to inform you as to how your child is adjusting that first full day.  This simple reassurance may make all the difference in helping you adjust to the change in routine.
  • Seek Support. Consider having a friend or family member ready to call or meet you right after the first drop-off to help you through the transition.


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Seitz, H.J. (2006, March). “The Plan: Building on Children’s Interests.” Beyond the Journal: Young Children on the Web.Retrieved on July 31, 2017 from https://www.naeyc.org/files/yc/file/200603/SeitzBTJ.pdf
Villalpando, N. (2017, Aug. 1). “10 things to do with kids before school starts to make them smarter (or at least avoid summer brain drain).” Retrieved on August 3, 2017 from http://parenting.blog.austin360.com/2017/07/18/10-things-to-do-with-kids-before-school-starts-to-make-them-smarter-or-at-least-avoid-summer-brain-drain/
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