Preparing your child for kindergarten is more than just making sure they know their colours and shapes. There are some things they are going to need to bring to school. As a teacher of kindergarten kids, I know this is a hectic, emotional time for you as a parent—you might be feeling like your baby grew up too fast, or you might be worried about how they will handle the transition. And you might be wondering what your child needs to handle a full day of school.
And I’ve got you covered there! There are things your little tyke will need as they start school, but there are certainly things that they won’t need and that you’ll be better off not sending to school. And saving your money on. Bear in mind, your child will likely be a class with twenty plus students. In Ontario, Canada, our kindergarten classes generally have around thirty kids and just two teachers so believe me, less is more when sending your kid to school. As in, you’ll be more likely to get things back (aka not lost) if you send less with them to school.
Keep in mind too, that the school itself will provide most school supplies and that you don’t need to budget for crayons and the like. So what do kids need? Let’s get started on preparing your child for kindergarten!
What They Do Need
Just Right Backpack
Preparing your child for kindergarten means they are going to need stuff. Your child is definitely going to need a backpack. When shopping for a backpack, think like Goldilocks—it needs to be just right when it comes to size. Not too big, and not too small. Too small and not much will fit—plus your little one will struggle with making things fit. Too big and it’s too heavy for your child to handle. Make sure the backpack isn’t oversized—trust me, this isn’t something they’ll grow into. Backpacks can get quite dirty and grimy. Also, avoid the ones on wheels. They are heavy and difficult for little children to manoeuvre and not preferred by schools.
Your child is going to need shoes for school. Sturdy running shoes are the best. Your child will be less likely to stub their toe or fall down, and they are going to be running a lot. Believe me, they never stop running at school. They run outside, they run in the gym, they even run inside although teachers discourage this tremendously. Your child’s feet are more protected in running shoes than they are in sandals or crocks so be sure your child has one or two pairs. Also, be prepared to leave a pair at school as “indoor shoes” as schools request this to help maintain the cleanliness of the classroom floors.
Lunch Time! Boxes and Containers
Your child is likely going to have at least one snack at school. For my students, they eat three times a day—snack in the morning, lunch and then an afternoon snack. So they totally need a lunch box. Choose one that containers you have fit into easily, and get easy to open containers. Practice opening up the containers with your kid–an essential skill in when preparing your child for kindergarten. Try to not over pack the lunch bag. I’ve seen so many containers and what not stuffed into a lunch box that not only can your child not re-package them, I can’t either! I ask the kiddo, “how did your mommy make this all fit?” And I either get one of two responses: “I don’t know” or “she puts too much in my lunch bag.” Outta the mouths of babes! So make sure the lunch bag is one your child can open and close easily and isn’t too difficult to repack. Less is more. Less is always more.
It’s always a smart idea (and something your school will likely request) to provide your child with a complete change of clothes to keep at school. Kids have accidents after all. As a kindergarten teacher, I can’t tell you how many times some kids have soiled themselves at school. Your child’s teacher is not going to change them, but teachers can direct the child to change themselves and it helps if clean clothes are already on hand. It’s best to send these in a big Ziplock bag with your child’s name clearly labelled.
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Dress Me Up for Outside Play
Where I teach, outdoor learning is a big part of our day. So it’s important to make sure your child is dressed for the weather each and every day. Jackets are needed for spring and fall, warmer outer wear for winter including snow pants and mittens. Please don’t send gloves. Kids can’t put them on and trying to get someone else’s fingers into gloves is not easy and takes time. Remember above where I said in Ontario classes can have thirty kids? Imagine trying to help thirty kids stick their fingers into gloves because they can’t themselves. Mittens please. Being dressed for the weather means your child can more fully participate in the outdoor activities and enjoy themselves a heck of a lot more. On days you think your child might stay inside due to inclement weather, do send the right outer wear anyway—the weather can change after all and we all want to go outside and play! Proper outdoor wear is essential in preparing your child for kindergarten.
Labels, Labels, Labels
See all of the above? LABEL all of it! Label the backpack, the shoes, the lunch box—yes the containers inside too—and ALL the clothes. If you want these items to last and return home on a regular basis, labels are a must. I cannot tell you how often I’ve held up an item—anything from a teeny lunch container to a pair of snow pants and asked who it belongs to only to met with the sound of crickets. Kindergarten kids have NO sense of ownership when it comes to these items. NONE whatsoever. In fact, even when I know something is theirs, they say it is not. So please, label your child’s belongings. It’s very hard for two teachers to keep track of every teeny mitten and hat. Also, do accept that some things may simply be lost despite everyone’s best effort. Where do they go? No one knows! I’ve searched high and low for things for parents and the question remains. Though one time I did figure out that one child was throwing out his lunch containers. Kids do the darnedest things!
What Your Child Doesn’t Need
Colouring Tools Galore
As tempting as the Crayola displays are, just don’t. Unless your school has asked you to provide colouring supplies like crayons, your child is not going to need their own personal set. Our school board provides colouring and writing supplies so you are not going to need to buy crayons or pencils or anything like that. You can totally skip buying these.
Don’t send hand sanitizer to school. We had soap and water before Covid, and now we have hand sanitizer too. Like, a ton of it. It’s crazy. Sending your own personal one just means it’ll get lost or your child will be sanitizing all day long because hey, they love sensory play and that gel is great sensory play.
Do not send any snacks that have nuts and/or peanuts. I likely need not say more on this topic—we all know someone with a severe allergy.
Nap Time Snugglies
If your child attends a full day program, this might include a nap or rest time. You honestly do not need to send a blanket or pillow and definitely don’t need to send a stuffed toy. In my experience most children do not sleep during this rest time, and if they do, they are perfectly fine without a blanket or what not. Plus, it’s more to pack for you, harder for your child to store in their cubby hole or bag and it’s going to get dirty very quickly. Ask your child’s teacher if it’s needed, and ask yourself, will my child really use this? Will it be a distraction or become a play item? You know your kid best, so think this through and bear in mind, it’s not easy taking a nap in a room with thirty other kids. Very few of my students have consistently slept during rest time.
So this is a HUGE one. Do not send your child to school with toys or trading cards! These will get lost and serve as a distraction. Toys from home, stay at home. Kindergarten rooms have tons of toys and loose materials for children to engage with and build. I know your little one might kick up a fuss about leaving their favourite car or doll or whatever at home, but trust me, they don’t need it and even if you just tuck it into their backpack, it can get lost throughout the day. And be aware, a lot of kids will sneak a toy into their backpack to bring to school too. Happens time and again, so be sneakier than your kid. Check their backpack if you think they might try and pull a fast one on you.
Sending your child to school with things like umbrellas is generally not the best idea. They tend to get banged around, are never used as we don’t go out if it’s raining, and can be something of a hazard. The same goes with sunscreen. Teachers don’t have the time to apply it and really, we are not allowed to, and believe me when I say most kids—if not all—cannot apply it on their own. They tend to squirt out big goops of it and making a mess of their arms that just needs cleaning up. Your child also does not need to bring outdoor toys like balls. Again, the school likely has items for the sandbox and balls to play with.
Preparing your child for kindergarten can be overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. They need way less than you might think. And don’t stress if they don’t have their ABCs down pat–that’s why they are going to kindergarten! So….here you have it! What your child needs and doesn’t need when they first start kindergarten. Starting kindergarten is an exciting time for both you and your child and maybe even a bit of an anxious time, but trust me your child will adjust with a lot less from home than you might think, and far more quickly too.
Did you send your child with these items? What did you find your child needed the most? Share in the comments.