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Transition to Kindergarten

Taking the time – the benefits of a slow transition into kindergarten

written by Deanne Millar – Educational Leader at Hurlingham Preschool


Kindergartens have a long tradition of a gradual bridging from family to teacher, underpinned by a sound understanding of why this is necessary.  We want you to feel confident that your child is receiving the best start possible by beginning their education with us here at Hurlingham Preschool.

Our transition program is based on both well-established and current research as to what best practice should be to ensure not just a positive start to kindergarten but, importantly, a positive influence on life long abilities to cope with times of stress.  This guides our scheduling and the timing of our sessions as we follow recommendations for shorter sessions during transition, held in the morning, followed by time with family and calm afternoons. 

We know that starting kindergarten will be stressful but we also know that learning how to cope with stress is part of a child’s healthy development and the goal is to minimise the level of stress while children are learning how to master it.  The research tells us the key is the presence of a secure adult relationship that gives children reassurance and buffers the stress response.

For teachers to achieve this goal, separation from you requires a ‘transfer of trust’.   How best to effect this with minimal stress is a carefully considered approach to settling in or, ‘getting into the habit’ of attending kindergarten.  It is recommended this should take at least two weeks. 

Our Orientation Day begins the process, with this first day kept very short and at least one parent is present the whole time.  We will spend time in discussion with you so your child can see and feel a relationship of the trust between us.  A small group, of no more than 8, allows time for this relationship to develop and your child not to be overwhelmed or overly challenged to leave the security of your side and explore the new environment.  It is a process of slowly and tactfully building a connection between home and a new situation and new people.

From then on, your child attends for brief periods on their own within a small group.  Whilst they are with us we are nurturing  and building a sense of belonging, children are engaging in self chosen activities and gently guided through the routines of a kindergarten day.  Once your child has attended a number of these short sessions, they are ready to move to a longer separation period and with the transfer of trust established to then come together as a whole group. 

We consider our 4 year old group as a whole, to have had the benefit of experiencing positive transitions in their 3 year old program and, a greater emotional maturity to cope with transference of trust  as well as  a greater abstract understanding of separation and the passing of time.  Transition is dealt with on an individual basis and if your child’s personality dictates a slower, more parent supported approach then starting and settling in can be tailored to suit.

The mutual time of getting to know each other, or ‘getting into the habit,’ carries within the language the truth that this is a three-way partnership. Teachers and parents are the parties who decide how well the stage is set for your child to feel safe, secure and stress free, confident to build this new relationship and as we well know, getting to know each other in any relationship, takes time.