My 4-year-old is going into Transitional Kindergarten in a week. Cue the dramatic mom tears! Actually, as a former elementary school teacher, I'm thrilled with the idea. Schwarzenegger signed the Kindergarten Readiness Act into law in California in 2010, changing the enrollment date so that all kids would be at least 5 when they enter school here. The law also created Transitional Kindergarten (or ‘TK,' which is often called Pre-K or PK in other states) to bridge the gap between preschool and kindergarten for students whose birthdays fall just short of the cutoff date. The idea is that older 4-year-olds need more mental stimulation than a typical preschool or daycare might provide, but they aren't ready for the full structure of kindergarten.
Three of my four children qualify for Transitional Kindergarten as fall babies, so I've been super-interested in the process. I managed to
obsessively stalk help some friends whose kids were in this situation last year, so I feel prepared now. The main hurdle is that the rules and funding for this program have been in a constantly-shifting state over the last few years. We've seen TK teachers come and go and be slotted in from other grades at the last minute. As a result, TK classes don't always have the clear-cut guidelines and supply lists that others do. As a parent, it's super-confusing trying to get your kid ready for this grade-that's-not-a-grade. Never fear, though, we've got you covered! If you show up with these essentials, you'll be ready for anything that the first day could possibly throw at you.
Transitional Kindergarten Must-Haves
A new backpack. That preschool-sized one that your kid's probably had since he was 2? Not gonna cut it anymore. Get a big kid backpack for your big kid!
Glue. I discovered that Transitional Kindergarten is the time when kids start going full-bore on glue exploration. Our preschool has never been big on glue use, and we've never used much as home because it's so messy. If you're like us, this is definitely a good time to stock up and practice so their pasting skills match their peers.
Avery folders. This is another thing that comes in super-handy at home. Kids in Transitional Kindergarten do a TON of letter and number practice, so you'll wind up being asked fifty zillion times how to make a ‘w.' Do your kid and yourself a favor: print out some practice charts from Pinterest and keep them handy for homework time. We keep ours in see-through Avery dividers that we hold together with paper fasteners as opposed to pulling a bulky binder out.
A lunch bag with an ice pack. In preschool, my son's lunches have always been kept in a cold area so anything I packed has been fresh until noon without issue. At their grade school, their backpacks are kept on hooks that are right in the sun outside of the classroom. Makes for a sandwich that's “kind of mushy,” according to my older son. So I got some of these PK2 bags to put in the freezer each night. They're lined with ice pack material, so they keep everything nice and crisp!
New shoes. Light-up kicks are all the rage. What kid wouldn't feel confident walking through the hallways with those on?
A cool first day of school shirt. We like to get an ironic shirt for our kids' first day of school every year. This one, “Stop Talking Start Playing,” is bound to get some attention from the teacher!
Pants that they can operate. This dude still asks for help buttoning and zipping up his jeans every once in a while. That's fine at home, but could be awkward in a school setting. They make these awesome pull-up jeans with stretchy waistbands that are perfect for kids going into Transitional Kindergarten.
I've found that there's no need to load up on crayons, pencils, markers or paper unless the teacher actually asks for it. A lot of schools have specific items or brands that they use for those things. We've actually bought a bunch of pencils in the past, only to find that our school uses specially-ordered training pencils made just for little fingers! So it doesn't hurt to have a stash of supplies for arts and crafts at home or to stick some in their bag just in case, but I wouldn't feel pressured to rush out and buy all those things.
Have your kids gone through Transitional Kindergarten or Pre-K? Are there any supplies that came in handy for you?