Kindergarten Information Night: Supporting Children in Their Transition to Elementary School

By Vanessa Ibarra, Teacher

Every year, Bing Nursery School hosts a kindergarten information night to help parents prepare their children for a smooth kindergarten transition. This year’s event, held Jan. 13, had a panel of experts including Menlo Park pediatrician Sarah Cueva; Herbert Hoover Elementary principal Katy Bimpson; Nixon Elementary School kindergarten teachers Jodie Harrier and Stephanie Han, as well as reading specialist Susan Chakos, a former Bing parent; and Bing head teachers Nandini Bhattacharjya, Adrienne Lomangino and Peckie Peters. The panel offered parents advice, answered questions and assured parents that their children are truly ready for the journey to kindergarten. 

Sarah Cueva, a physician at Burgess Pediatrics, began by passing along a valuable message: “Your nursery school teachers are a gold mine of information.” Cueva continued by assuring parents that children’s transition from nursery school to kindergarten is the most successful when parents and nursery school teachers collaborate in the process. 

Cueva followed by providing parents pointers to set up their children for success. One tip was to schedule their child’s 5-year check-up at the pediatrician, paying close attention to the tests of their vision and hearing. She also stressed the influence of both nutrition and sleep on a child’s day: Eating a well-balanced breakfast and a healthy lunch and getting a good night’s sleep of 10 to 12 hours can help with the transition from a half-day to full-day program. Cueva also advised parents to provide children with activities that will help them gain confidence and independence, and since it is important for children to feel comfortable in their new school setting, being able to take care of their toileting needs independently will be essential. 

In addition to her advice, Cueva also described academic expectations and goals for kindergartens. Academically, children are expected to be familiar with numbers and be able to recognize some letters. Children should also be able to use writing and drawing tools and child-sized scissors with control and intention. Socially, children are expected to work cooperatively (listen to others, share and take turns), follow directions, regulate emotions properly and articulate feelings in words, among other skills. 

Head teacher Peckie Peters posed and answered the following question: “What do we do at Bing that can support children in their transition to kindergarten?” Peters addressed the importance of Bing’s emphasis on the development of social and emotional skills. Fundamentally, children need to feel confident about who they are and how they can engage with other children and adults. Bing’s play-based program supports and encourages children to explore and develop essential lifelong skills such as self-regulation, perspective-taking, empathy, autonomy and strategies for entering play and connecting with others. Through these experiences, children gain the confidence to try new activities and feel successful in their endeavors. Lastly, Peters stressed the importance of looking at a child’s development as a continuum. Every child is different and it is important to take this into consideration when evaluating kindergarten readiness. 

Next up on the panel was head teacher Nandini Bhattacharjya. To Bhattacharjya, Bing’s two hours of uninterrupted play are essential in developing academic readiness. Bhattacharjya assured parents that children’s attention span will gradually increase as children mature and learn to self-regulate. For instance, a child who can spend five minutes on block building at the beginning of the year will most likely be able to spend more time building as the year progresses. Through repeated experiences, children master skills, which helps them to develop their sustained interest and focus, all of which helps them in kindergarten. Furthermore, Bhattacharjya echoed Cueva’s comments about academic preparation for kindergarten. She emphasized the importance of strong fine motor skills and a correct pencil grip. To conclude, Bhattacharjya encouraged parents to live in the present and wait to discuss kindergarten until just a couple weeks before the start of the academic school year—otherwise children may think the change will take place soon. 

Our fourth panelist Adrienne Lomangino, head teacher, explained why Bing is called a nursery school and not a preschool: “It’s not ‘pre’ anything,” she said. Since birth, children are naturally curious and are ready to explore and make sense of the world they live in. A nursery school experience gives children an opportunity to build a foundation to be successful in school and in life. Lomangino also advised parents to avoid expecting the transition to kindergarten to be a dramatic event. Every child is unique and they each have their own strengths and areas in need of support. Lomangino emphasized that the transition can be an ongoing process. She recommended that parents be positive and supportive during this period and let their children enjoy their time. 

Jodie Harrier and Stephanie Han, kindergarten teachers at Nixon Elementary, described a typical day in kindergarten. At Nixon, children begin their day at 8 a.m. and engage in yoga or dance for about 25 minutes. A morning meeting follows to discuss children’s daily news, calendar and weather. The teacher then assigns writing and reading work to each child. Children can also choose to engage in animal studies, science, paint, blocks and group snack, among other activities. According to Harrier, kindergarten expectations have changed over the past 20 years, with higher expectations in reading, writing and math. Harrier noted that children may start kindergarten at different stages in their development. She reassured parents that children will learn and make progress in an environment with curriculum designed for them. Teachers are supportive and it is their goal to make school a fun learning experience for all children. To support the transition and create a supportive learning environment at home, reading specialist Susan Chakos encouraged parents to read to their children every day. Any and all reading is encouraged, especially non-fiction, which is great for their young minds.