This post is a part of a series to help you get your little one ready for their big first day of K!


The first day of Kindergarten is quickly approaching for SFUSD families! This advice for parents on the First Day of K come from Carol Lei, Jackie Fox, Elizabeth Weise and Emily Grimm, AWESOME moms and PPS-SF volunteers. (You ladies ROCK!)

Carol Lei’s Tips for Kindergarten Families:

Bring your camera for first day of school photo. I took a shot every year of my kids with their teacher on the first day.  When they graduated from elementary school, my kids wrote thank you notes to all their teachers and included the first day photo. (We also took last day photos too!)

Bring your camera for the first week or two and take photos of the other kids too. When your child comes home and says he or she made a new friend (or something happened with someone), you can go through the photos to identify the child. When my kids graduated, I printed all the photos of other kids through the years and they gave them as “graduation/memory” gifts to their friends/classmates. You a get some additional photos of the start of school without making too much of big deal out of your child going to school when you’re casually taking photos of other kids or the school in general. (Note: DO NOT POST photos of other people’s children to social media or share online without their permission.

Take a picture of your class list.  Many schools post the class lists on a board so everyone can know where to take their kids.  We take a picture for reference because it so hard to remember all the kids’ names with all the excitement of the first week.

Use this list to create a room list for your child’s class early on, including each child’s name, parents, phone, address etc. This way when it comes time for birthdays, it will be easy to do invitations, etc. (This works well for Valentines too!)

Show your child where you will meet them after school. It’s not just about drop off.

Play “what if” game. What if I am late picking you up?” “What if you can’t find your jacket?”  Mix these in with fun “What if’s” (For example: What if you were a bird? …  could eat all the ice cream you wanted? … had a special power? etc.

Make sure your child knows how to open and close lunch containers, including: ziplock bags, lunch bags, put straw in the juice box (without squeezing all the juice out) AND know how to close containers. Left over yogurt spilling out all over the lunch bag is no fun.

If it’s kindergarten or Transitional Kindergarten (TK), schedule a light work day. You may be emotional and hard to focus on work.

If it’s kindergarten, try not to cry (or show other strong emotions) in front of your child. “Why is mom/dad crying or acting so weird?” your child might wonder. “This kindergarten thing must be bad!”

Leave when it’s time to leave. Don’t hang around.  Let the teacher do his or her work.  Your child will be fine. :)

Plan a nice treat after school. This could turn into a nice tradition signaling how special education is. [We always go to Swenson’s for ice-cream!*]

When you ask your child how school went and you get nothing, try specific questions. “Who did you sit with at lunch?” “Who did you play with at recess?” “What did the teacher say about XX?” “What did other kids bring for lunch?” (This helped me get ideas of what I could pack), “Who is this?” (If you took photos during the first week.)

Have clothes picked out the night before to avoid major decision making the morning. If you don’t have morning kids, dress them while they’re sleeping in bed as you’re trying to wake them up.

If your child brings his or her lunch, make the main part of their lunch and let them pick the fruit, drink, or other additional food. This gets them involved and will be more likely to eat their lunch.

Be prepared if your child is totally exhausted the first few weeks/months (and goes to be at 6pm.) … or cries. It’s natural. School is tiring, especially if there are after school activities.  I’ve heard that some kids took up to 3 months to adjust.

Be prepared for the stack of paperwork coming home. And, it. Will. Come.

Get yourself a 3-ring binder and 3-hole punch sheet protectors (on sale at any office story.) Put the empty sheet protectors in the binder. Put the binder on an easy-to-access shelf. Now whenever the inevitable “You were a star in class today!” or “Best Tuesday question-asker” awards come home, slip them into a sheet protector. Ditto with extra special homework assignments. Then throw everything else you don’t need out. (fold when necessary) At the end of the year you’ll have a nice, easy to flip through record of the year—instead of  stacks of papers you’ll never really go through and will eventually throw away.

Label EVERYTHING. It’s amazing how many jackets, lunch bags, etc. wind up in the lost and found. Note: be careful about putting kids’ first names on anything, especially if it can been visible from afar.  I used first initial and last name, for safety reasons. — we don’t need strangers knowing our kids’ names.

If you’re driving to school, plan an extra 10-15 minutes the first day (or the first week).  Everyone drives their kids the first day, parks, and walks their kids to school. So be ready to park a few blocks away and walk. Plus, if you timed the driving during the summer, there’s more traffic congestion when school starts.

(Not a tip but a notice) If you’re driving/parking, PLEASE do not block driveways, park in the drop off zone, or park illegally. It’s important to keep the peace with school neighbors who may complain that they can’t get out of their driveways to get to work, or worse not being able to get their kids to school on time.  Also, there may be police presence in the neighborhood the first day of school at many schools — Don’t worry that there’s something bad going on. It’s nice PR in ensuring things go smoothly with traffic and neighbors. Special note: Please, allow time for picking your student up! Be nice to those telling you to go around the block. It is not personal, and you will get your student. :-)

If you haven’t done so, make sure your child knows how to go the bathroom by him/herself.  One good exercise is to go to a public location (restaurant, library) and tell your child to go in and you’ll wait outside.

Prepare a note to the teacher to inform him or her of any special needs. Examples include: major allergies or fears, etc.

Join the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) or Parent Teacher Organization (PTO). Don’t make them harass you. Just Do It.

And of course, start (or continue) saving for college. :)
*my two cents

Do you have any tips or ideas for Kindergarten parents on the First Day of K? Please share them below!

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About alimcollins

Ali Collins is an educator, community organizer and mom. She lives with her husband and twin girls in San Francisco, CA.

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