The Big Transition from Preschool to Pre-K


My 3.5 year old son will make the big transition from Preschool to Pre-K3 this Fall. Many children in the area make this change at this age since D.C. offers free, public Pre-K3 and Pre-K4 through its lottery system. To say I’m a mix of emotions is an understatement. I’m excited, anxious, happy and sad all at the same time. While it’s wonderful to see my boy growing up and learning new things by the minute, this transition to “big school” (what we like to call it) is a big deal. Here are a few things that my family is doing to ease his transition.

4 Ways to Ease into a School Transition

1. Talk About Starting “Big School” At Least a Few Times Per Week

This is perhaps the most important thing to do. For awhile, my husband and I have been casually mentioning to our son how he’ll be going to a new school soon where he will meet new friends and do new fun things. We occasionally drive by the school, point it out and tell him that he’ll be a “big boy” at “big school.” Most of the time he reacts positively, but if he says he does not want to go to a new school with new friends, we tell him it’s OK to feel that way when doing something new.

My son’s Preschool has been awesome with this as well! Moving on to Pre-K3 is a regular topic of conversation and the school hosts a “graduation ceremony” to mark the transition to big school.

2. No break between Preschool and the First Day of Pre-K3

We briefly thought about taking our son out of Preschool a few days days before starting Pre-K3 but ultimately decided against it. It is more important to us that we keep the same routine and just start our son at a new place. In other words, we only want there to be one change going on at one time. This is a very personal decision for each family and can go either way depending on their kid’s personality.

3. Introduce new friends

Fortunately, my boy’s new school hosts playdates at the playground and we already know a few of the parents whose kids will also be attending the school. We’ve been able to make a few connections and introduce the kids. I recommend that everyone try to meet new parents. If the school does not coordinate playdates, reach out on your local community listserv or ask parents in your neighborhood.

4. Check My Own Emotions

Even though both my husband and I have some anxiety–which is to be expected–we do try not to show it around our son. We talk about big school calmly and encouragingly. What has particularly helped me is learning as much as I can about the school. This includes talking to current parents, attending a chat with the Principal, taking my son to a neighborhood celebration at the school and meeting teachers. By educating myself, I’ve been able to keep it cool.

Is your kid transitioning to “big school” this year. What are some things you are doing to ease the transition?