Getting ready to start kindergarten

Children start kindergarten at different stages of development, with different backgrounds and experiences. Plan early to help your child have a smooth transition to school and get the most out of kindergarten.

Communicate with your child

Help your child think of learning and starting school as enjoyable, exciting and useful by:

  • listening and talking to your child about what kindergarten will be like (for example, the new friends they will make and the fun things they will learn)
  • being upbeat and enthusiastic about kindergarten so that your child is excited to start school
  • connecting with your child’s caregivers and early childhood educators (preschool or child care) so that everyone can work together and communicate consistently

Build confidence

Introduce your child to new surroundings and activities. Child and family programs, such as EarlyON child and family centres allow you to:

  • learn and play with your child
  • connect with other families and caregivers
  • find out about other family services and supports in your community

EarlyON Child and Family Centres offer free, high-quality programs for families and children from birth to 6 years old. Children can learn through play and inquiry-based activities. Find a centre near you and drop in for a visit with your child.

To get ready for kindergarten, you can start preparing your child to handle social situations and activities without you by planning short and safe sessions where you will not be there with them. This will help your child:

  • build confidence and independence
  • develop social skills
  • practice communicating with other children and adults

Create opportunities for your child to be in environments where they can get excited about making early friendships as well. You can visit a nearby school and plan visits and playdates with:

  • close family or friends
  • children of the same age or attending the same school or child and family program as your child

Toilet training

Each school board has its own rules and procedures for children who need help using the toilet. Check with your school board to plan ahead when you are preparing for your child to start kindergarten to learn if they have requirements for toilet training. You may also want to speak with your school’s principal.

Find your school board.

Find your school.

You can help your child by starting the process at the right time, giving short and clear instructions, being encouraging and staying consistent.

Timing and readiness

Try to avoid toilet training during major changes in your child’s life, for example:

  • just before your child starts kindergarten
  • if your family is moving
  • you are welcoming another child

You can make it easier for your child to follow instructions and remember what to do by giving them 1 or 2 step directions. If your child wears clothes that are easy for them to take off and put back on by themselves, they will find the process of using the toilet easier to follow.

Encouragement and consistency

Be encouraging and consistent during the toilet learning process. Praise your child to support them as they learn new skills.

By following the same approach to toilet learning in each part of your child’s life – at home, in child care and at school – your child will learn to follow and remember the steps you want them to take for toilet training.

Special education programs

All children have the right to attend school and can register for kindergarten if they live within the school board’s boundaries.

Going to school for the first time may be more complex for children with special education needs and/or disabilities. Your school can plan for your child’s development and needs by working closely with you and your child’s educator team and community support team.

Reach out to your school’s principal before you register your child for kindergarten. They will work with the school board to make sure that your school has the resources it needs to support your child when they start school.

When you register for kindergarten

Let the school know about your child’s special needs and/or disabilities when you register them for kindergarten. Your school will share information about its special education programs and services. You or your school might decide to have a meeting (called a case conference), with your child’s team to plan how best to support your child.

You and your school should communicate regularly about your child’s progress, their strengths, needs and development throughout the school year.

Your educator team

At the school level, the team helping your child start school can include:

  • a school board consultant or coordinator
  • the school principal
  • teachers
  • other education professionals, such as early childhood educators

School boards must:

  • have processes to identify your child's level of development, learning abilities and needs
  • ensure that educational programs are designed to accommodate these needs and support your child's growth and development

Schools have a responsibility to:

  • have processes in place to help students transition to school smoothly
  • provide the accommodations and supports needed to ensure a successful transition to kindergarten

Your community support team

Your child may be receiving support from other community resources, including:

  • preschool service providers
  • health care providers
  • social services
  • community organizations

These resources can also play a role in helping your child transition to school by preparing them for new environments, practicing new routines and keeping track of their strengths, needs and development.

Learn more about services and supports for children with special education needs.

On the first day of kindergarten

You can help make your child feel confident and comfortable on the first day of school by:

  • asking your child if they would like to bring a special item from home with them, like a toy or stuffed animal
  • getting to school early so that you can walk around the school and playground areas together
  • being excited and cheerful as you talk to your child and when you meet their educator team and new classmates
  • telling your child who will be picking them up at the end of the day, so they know who to expect
  • reminding your child that there will be many exciting new things to learn and talk about together at the end of the day

If your child will be taking the bus, visit the school a few days before the first day of school so that you can show them the playground and school doors.

During the school year

You can support your child throughout the school year by:

Your school may use different ways to get in touch with parents and families and keep them regularly updated, including:

  • online learning platforms
  • mobile apps
  • newsletters
  • emails

Ask your child’s educators about the best way to stay connected to what your child is learning and doing in kindergarten. You can:

  • attend information meetings and events organized by the school for parents and families
  • ask your child’s educators about how you can support your child at home
  • speak to your child’s educators and the school if you have any questions or concerns

Support your child’s learning at home

You can encourage your child to practice at home the new things they are learning in school by:

  • asking your child questions about what they learned or did during the day, such as:
    • “I saw the picture you made hanging on the bulletin board in your classroom. How did you decide what to draw?”
  • playing games together
  • including your child in daily home activities, like cooking, tidying up or putting groceries away
  • asking your child what they think about the world around them

Find more resources and recommendations to help your child develop their skills and support their learning through everyday games and activities.

Building early reading skills

There are many ways you can help your child build strong reading and literacy skills, such as:

  • spending time reading together, telling stories and singing songs
  • reading a book, e-book or listening to an audiobook around your child, so that they see you reading and will want to copy you
  • reading stories in the languages you speak at home to help them start making connections between languages
  • visiting your local public library to pick out books with your child and join activities for children
  • playing board games and card games, such as word bingo
  • pointing out when we use reading in daily life (for example, street signs, food labels)

Building positivity about math

You can help your child build strong math skills by using everyday activities to show how we use math all the time. Your child will build confidence, begin to realize how math is helpful and you can start giving them more challenging options.

You can:

  • use games to help your child learn shapes, such as “I Spy”
  • teach your child to be aware of time in conversation, for example:
    • “It took us only 2 minutes to tidy up your toys”
    • “In 10 minutes, it’ll be 7 p.m. and time for your bath”
  • encourage your child to touch, point to and move objects as they learn to count
  • sort household items, such as, buttons or shoes, and ask your child to put them in order (by size, heaviness, etc.)

Learn more about making math part of your day-to-day routine with your child.

Practicing skills through arts and crafts

You can help your child develop literacy, thinking and math skills while they do fun games and art activities through the day, including:

  • exploring different and interesting materials that your child can practice counting, organizing and naming
  • talking to your child about what they are doing, such as the different colours, textures and shapes they are using
  • pointing out art in your child’s everyday environment, such as talking about the shapes and textures in the playground
  • introducing new vocabulary words by doing new activities, such as “drizzling the glue” and “dabbing the paint”