Off To School Already?

Child going to school

Children just starting school are often anxious, but even children who have already attended school can be upset or concerned on the first day. What can we do to help make the first day easier for our child?

Talk to Your Child

Remind your child that she is not the only student who is a bit uneasy about the first day of school. Teachers know that students are anxious and will make an extra effort to make sure everyone feels as comfortable as possible.

Choose a Buddy

Find out what other children are in your child's class. Find another child in the neighborhood with whom your youngster can walk to school or ride with on the bus.

Be a Cheerleader

Point out the positive aspects of starting school: it will be fun. She'll see old friends and meet new ones. Refresh her memory about previous years, when she may have returned home after the first day with high spirits because she had a good time.

Transitioning from Summer to School

While it is wonderful to give children the opportunity for a more relaxed schedule during the summer, August is the time for easing children back into a routine so that when school starts, it won't be an abrupt transition. Here are some ideas for easing the transition into school:

Get In the Routine

Climb in bed a little earlier. Start re-implementing your regular routines during August. If you let your child stay up a little later during the summer, gradually get back to the bedtime you will expect when school starts.


Rehearse packing lunches in the morning, if that will be part of the fall routine, so that you will know how much extra time it will take and what supplies you will need to have on hand. If your child will purchase lunch, begin collecting dollar bills and change in a location in the kitchen so you will have it handy. Do a "dry run" of the new morning routine, whether it is walking to the bus stop, driving to the new school, etc. to see how much time it will take. Remember, it almost always takes more time than you think, especially when the unexpected happens (you have to go back for homework, sneakers for gym, etc.).

Phase Out the Nap

Yes, we all love sleeping kids, but if your child takes a nap, begin decreasing nap time so that he or she will be ready for a full day without a nap by the time school starts.

Check Out the School

If you haven't done so already and if the school welcomes the practice, make a visit to the new school to meet your child's teacher and other familiar faces (secretary in the office, etc.). If this doesn't work with your schedule, maybe a relative or neighbor whose child attends the same school can take your child.

Have a Back-Up Plan

Make sure you and your child know the routine for before and after school care—where he or she will go, how he or she will get between school and child care, etc. Have a back-up plan for what to do in case you are late. You probably had a plan for your current early childhood center, but be sure that your emergency pick-up people know where the new school/after-school program is located and what the pick-up routine is there. It's far better to prepare ahead of time than wait for an emergency.

Create Morning Moments

For happier mornings, develop a special “getting-ready” routine and stick with it. When children can predict what's coming next, they feel competent and are much more likely to cooperate. For younger children, a relaxing routine might start off with some snuggle time and independent play, followed by a nutritious breakfast. For older children, it might include time to collect homework and plan for afternoon activities.

School is a big step towards independence. With our reassurance and patience, our children's transition to school can be rewarding for everyone involved.

Children's Books

"Tomorrow is the First Day of School" by Maureen Macdowell and illustrated by Max Hergenrother. Butterflies flutter inside the tummy of a young girl as she prepares for the first day of school. Told in her voice, the story mirrors the feelings of anxiety and nervous exhilaration all children encounter the day before school begins.

"The Night Before Kindergarten and The Night Before First Grade" (Reading Railroad Books), by Natasha Wing and illustrated by Deborah Zemke. It's the first day of school! Join the kids as they prepare for the first day, packing school supplies, posing for pictures, and the hardest part of all-saying goodbye to Mom and Dad.Colorful illustrations illuminate these uplifting takeoffs on the classic Clement C. Moore Christmas poem.

"It's Back To School We Go!" by Ellen Jackson and illustrated by Jan Davey Ellis. With easy-to-read text, this book describes what the first day of school might be like for a child in Kenya, Kazakhstan, Canada, Australia, Japan, China, Peru, Germany, India, Russia, and the United States.

"Mr. Ouchy's First Day" by B.G. Hennessy and illustrated by Paul Meisel. Mr. Ouchy is nervous about his first day of school . . . even though he's the teacher! Will his students like him? Will he be able to find the bathroom? What if he can't remember his students' names? Fortunately, his classroom keeps him busy; his students have plenty of their own questions, and the first day of school turns into a great day for everyone.

"A Place Called Kindergarten" by Jessica Harper and illustrated by G. Brian Karas. The farmyard animals cannot understand why Tommy has not come for his morning visit. Then the dog tells them that Tommy has gone in a yellow bus to a place called kindergarten. What's that? What will happen to Tommy there? When Tommy comes home at last, he tells the animals all about his first day of kindergarten.

"Kindergarten Rocks!" by Katie Davis. Dexter is ready for kindergarten. Sort of. Well, actually, he's maybe kind of a little bit scared, perhaps even terrified, one might say. Because what if he gets lost? Or, what if the teacher is mean? Or, he misses his mom or dad? Or, worst of all, he loses his most important ally,Rufus?

"First Day Jitters" by Julie Danneberg and illustrated by Judith Dufour Love. This book puts a fresh twist on an annual crisis suffered by millions: the arrival of that dreaded day in September when school starts. The alarm rings, but Sarah Jane Hartwell just burrows deeper into her covers, announcing that she's not going, wailing "I don't know anybody, and it will be hard, and . . . I just hate it, that's all." But, Sarah Jane is a teacher!

"Welcome to Kindergarten" by Anne Rockwell. Join Tim as he visits his future kindergarten classroom and learns what he will be doing during his first year of school. Explore the reading, math, and art centers. Sit at the desk where he will practice writing, counting, and telling time. The classroom may look a little too big at first, but after finding out about all the fun ahead, it doesn't seem too big at all. In fact, it's just the right size

"Sumi's First Day of School" by Joung Un Kim and Soyung Pak. The first day of school can be lonely and scary, especially when you don't speak the same language as everyone else. Sumi only knows one phrase in English, "Hello, my name is Sumi." This doesn't seem nearly enough to prepare her for a big school with wide stairs, noisy children, and a mean classmate. Beautiful, expressive illustrations show how a considerate teacher and even a new friend help Sumi discover that school might not be so lonely after all.

"Hello School!: A Classroom Full of Poems" by Dee Lillegard and illustrated by Don Carter. This collection of 38 vivid poems brings the classroom to life and sets the scene for a first school experience. This book celebrates all things preschool. Letters, numbers, books, water fountains, carpet squares, swings, and slides all pop off the page and into a child's imagination.

"Countdown to the First Day of School" by Ann Marie Harris and illustrated by Keiko Motoyamal. Young children will love getting ready to start the new school year with this shaped paperback! From shopping for school supplies to packing lunches and riding the school bus, children will love counting down to their own first day! This interactive book is designed to reinforce counting skills, encourage solo reading, and ease children's anxieties about beginning school.

"This is the Teacher" by Rhonda Gowler Greene and illustrated by Mike Lester. This hilarious cumulative tale in the tradition of "The House That Jack Built" depicts a typical day at school. This is the teacher all ready for school. These are the students who rush through the door and topple the teacher all ready for school. The chaos continues and accumulate and, through it all, stalwart teacher manages to keep her cool. But, boy, is she ready for bed at the end of the day!

Written by: Bright Horizons Education Team

April 15, 2021

About The Bright Horizons Education Team

Teacher reading to a toddler boy and girl

Whether you’re looking for parenting advice, or trying to figure out how to bring learning from the classroom to the family room, let Bright Horizons early education experts be your trusted, knowledgeable resource. Get our weekly newsletter for all things early child development—from the benefits of pretend play to at-home STEM activities, and teaching kindness—along with encouragement for every stage of your parenting journey.