First Grade New to Kinders: Parent Action Tips, Part 1

My grandson, Parker, couldn’t wait to become a first grader. “Jacob says we get more recesses.”

I try shedding reality. “But you’ll be in school longer.”

“But I’ll have more recesses.” His third-grade friend trumps Grams.

After starting first grade Parker excitedly informs me, “I have recess after breakfast, in the morning, at lunch, and in the afternoon. I have four recesses.” What could be more important?

Your kindergartener is probably just as excited about going to first grade. I’m thrilled my grandson felt confident and ready, however, there were several aspects of first grade that were vastly different and “new” to him as he transitioned from kindergarten.

Here’s what may be “new” in your child’s first grade class, and parent action tips you can implement to help your child adjust quicker.

New: First Graders Attend School All Day

Many schools offer the typical half-day morning or afternoon kindergarten. If your child attended full-day kindergarten, the children typically have a rest time in the afternoon. Denise Giardi, a 20-year veteran first grade teacher at John Muir Elementary in Modesto, California says, “Half-day to full-day is the biggest hurdle, especially the first trimester. I often see tears in the afternoon. Children are tired, and they miss their mommies.” 1

Parent Action Tip: The Labor of Love blog suggests, “To help make the transition to first grade easy, you should try to wean your child from naps at the beginning of the summer before the start of school.” 2 About two weeks before school begins, start getting your child to bed earlier until he adjusts to a longer day.

New: Testing the Waters on the “Big” Playground

Not only do first graders have more recesses, they play on the big kid equipment instead of a protected area designated for pre-school and/or kindergarten. Giardi says, “Children are used to their kindergarten teacher supervising recess time. Even children who typically follow the rules may surprise their parents with playground mishaps. Since their teacher isn’t on the playground, they think they don’t have to follow the rules. They don’t understand that the yard duty monitors are the ‘teachers’ now.” 1

Parent Action Tip: After school, take your child to the big kid playground. Let her explore the new equipment. While playing, explain how things will be different. For example, “Your teacher won’t be with you during recess when you’re in first grade. The grown-ups who will be watching you are called yard duty monitors. You’ll need to listen to them and follow the rules just like you did when your teacher was with you. I know you’ll enjoy the bigger playground.”

New: Eat Lunch at School

Parker was used to eating a snack during the morning recess. It’s lunch that was the challenge. He was so excited for lunch recess, he barely ate.

Parent Action Tip: Check if your child’s school requires students to stay at the cafeteria tables at least ten minutes before dismissal. If not, suggest it. Most kids will eat if they can’t leave. Otherwise, your first grader may not be eating much or skipping lunch all together.

Parent Action Tip: Share your expectations for eating lunch. For example, “Eat half your sandwich and your sliced apples before you go to lunch recess. You can eat your granola bar during afternoon recess.” Periodically check-in with your child and see how lunch is going.

Be sure to read part 2 of this blog next week.


  1. Phone interview with Denise Giardi, 1st grade teacher at John Muir Elementary, Modesto City Schools in Modesto, California on May 21, 2018.
  2. How Can We Make The Transition to First Grade Easy?
  3. Image: rank-5980089_1280 []

Leave a Comment