Start Early. Start well.

May 26, 2022

Setting the Stage for Kindergarten: Nebraska Launches New Transition Toolkit

Girl in kindergarten classThe Nebraska Transition to Kindergarten Toolkit and Resource Guide was created to support families, school district staff and Kindergarten teachers, as well as early child care professionals during this pivotal time in a child's life.

By Ashia Aubrey

It’s the first day of Kindergarten—kids get dropped off at school, where they meet other children for the first time, encounter new teachers, and experience a brand-new schedule and structure—all in a setting that is likely unfamiliar to them. This transition can be a whirlwind for children, families, and educators. 

The Nebraska Transition to Kindergarten Toolkit and Resource Guide was created to support the  process between preschool and Kindergarten. It’s a new guide for families, school district staff and Kindergarten teachers, as well as early child care professionals.

“This was an opportunity for Nebraska to think through how to have better communication and collaboration between the three different types of adults—parents, early childhood professionals, and those working in schools and school districts—who impact children's transitions the most,” said Lisa Roy, former director of program development at the Buffett Early Childhood Institute at the University of Nebraska and project lead for the toolkit and resource guide. “All of those adults make a difference in how well a transition happens for a young child.”

WestEd, an educational research and service organization, developed and designed the toolkits with the input of more than 50 individuals from across Nebraska. The group was purposeful in ensuring that the toolkits generated an understanding of what could be expected of a child when reaching Kindergarten and highlighted techniques to support their learning and development; they also intentionally focused on ensuring inclusion when customizing them to represent the state of Nebraska.

The goals of the toolkits are to: 
Strengthen collaboration among early childhood providers and public schools 
Support learning and development to meet the needs of all children equitably  
Build knowledge among professionals in early childhood care and education and schools 
Promote partnership between families, educators, and communities 
Help align a successful transition for children to Kindergarten 

Inside the toolkits are messages and themes on readying children for the transition to Kindergarten, and tips on how a family can prepare at home. The booklets address how child care providers and administrators can best support children and families, the expectations of the transition process to Kindergarten, and recommendations on what school districts and Kindergarten teachers can do to strengthen the environment where children learn. 

Nicole Looper has significant experience with the transition to Kindergarten process, and she’s spent time reviewing and learning from the toolkits. She was an Educare master teacher, a program specialist with Omaha Public Schools, and is now the director of the Nelson Mandela Early Childhood Development Center in Omaha. Looper said her background has given her a foundation to help support parents and educators. Now, she is always looking for new strategies to share with families. 

“We’ve had some discussions about bedtime routines. We talked about reading with your scholar and giving some of those foundational skills,” she said. 

Looper said the Nelson Mandela Early Childhood Development Center continues to build relationships with schools in the area and work on ways to implement workshops to introduce family and school staff—which the toolkit highlights as essential to supporting children’s transitions. 

“We want them to be confident. We want them to establish some great skills so when they go to Kindergarten they can shine and love learning, instead of ‘Oh my goodness, I’m in this major building and I don’t know anyone,’” she said.

Kindergarten is a pivotal time in a child’s life, and Roy believes the toolkits make space for children to learn and build on their skills. 

“I believe parents always want to know what is it that I can do to support my child to get them ready for Kindergarten,” Roy said. “And they are almost shocked when they get to Kindergarten and learn some of the expectations, so balancing between what’s realistic and developmentally appropriate is important.” 

“This is still a salient point of intervention for kids,” said Roy. “It’s a time where we really can prepare schools to welcome students from different environments. They can get to know the environments that children are coming from, whether that’s from home or center-based or home-based care and can really make that transition as comfortable as possible. And the Kindergarten teacher having that background and experience to understand the child that’s in front of them and learning how best to support their learning growth and development is important.” 

The toolkit is available online and is supported by a grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Preschool Development Grant Birth through 5 (PDG B-5). 

To learn more and access the Nebraska Transition to Kindergarten Toolkit, click here

Ashia Aubrey is a Preschool Development Grant communications specialist at the Buffett Early Childhood Institute at the University of Nebraska. Previously, she was the associate director of communications at an Omaha nonprofit and served as a reporter and television news anchor in Nebraska, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. 

Have a question, comment, or a story idea? Reach Ashia at

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