prek and kindergarten education timeline
Education Timeline Parent Guide

Get a Head Start on Preparing for PreK and Kindergarten 

Research your local preschools and pre-k programs. Talk to other parents, neighbors, and teachers. Ask questions about their personal experiences and what they like and/or dislike about the school.  Find out the preschool curriculum. A public Head Start program for low-income families or another public school program may offer half-day or full-day programs.

Visit the school initially without your child. Tour the school and check out the library and computer centers. Get a feel for the kindergarten near you and explore all the possibilities with 

How to Register for Preschool / Pre-K

Make an appointment to meet with principals and teachers. Share specific information about your child with the principal, and find out how the school will support her learning style. Ask about how the school measures individual progress and how they communicate with parents. If your child has special needs or is eligible for a gifted and talented program, schedule an appointment with the special-education services coordinator.

Tuition-Free Head Start

The largest tuition-free preschool/ Pre-K program in America is Head Start, hosted by schools and organizations. The Office of Head Start grants government funding to Head Start agencies. The program provides physical, emotional, social, and nutritional support to low-income families with young children. Children in the Head Start program can receive benefits from birth to age 5. 

What age is preschool?

Preschool is for children ages 3-5.

Pre K, or prekindergarten, programs offer children as early as 3 years old the opportunity to jumpstart kindergarten. They also provide access to valuable services like early intervention and speech evaluations.

Children enrolled in preschool and Pre-k tend to have a smoother transition into kindergarten/elementary school.  Those with special needs are identified sooner than children who wait until entering elementary school. Children with disabilities ages 3-5 are entitled to free special services through the Preschool Program for Children with Disabilities. (2)  Economically disadvantaged and dual language learners benefit from the curriculum and services provided in Pre-k, developing confidence when entering kindergarten.

Getting Ready for Preschool / Pre-K/ Kindergarten

Medical and Vaccine Records for Your Child

Make an appointment with your child’s pediatrician. Your school may require a copy of a recent well visit or a physical. The school will also need documentation of a current vaccination record.

Documentation for Student Registration

Most preschools need to see an official birth certificate in order to enroll a student, as well as proof of residence.

Enrolling in Pre K

Register your child in person or online by finding your school district’s website or main phone number. They will provide registration information. If applicable, submit financial aid forms well before registration deadlines.


Some schools require that your child be fully potty-trained. Make sure you are aware of potty-training policies ahead of time. (3)


Tips to help your child prepare for Pre-K

Visit the school with your child before their first day, and meet the teacher. This will help alleviate insecurities about what to expect.

Practice school activities with your child such as drawing, storytelling, or “playing school”.

Start adjusting sleep schedules. Begin moving bedtime earlier well in advance of the first day.

Communicate with the teacher.  Ask about daily schedules and lesson plans early.  This allows you and your child to discuss what the day will look like to ease anxiety about the unknown. 

Get them a “big kid” backpack. Even if they don’t actually take it into school, having a backpack can help little ones feel responsible for their belongings.  You can fill it with a toy, blanket, books, etc.

Let them choose their outfit.  The day before, let them choose from two options. This gives them a feeling of control for their first day.

Be confident.  Children can sense your anxiety.  Try to remain calm and content while preparing and packing for the school day.

Keep goodbyes short and sweet. (4)

Tips for Tear-Free Goodbyes

  1. Reintroduce the teacher to your child. Let them know that you trust the teacher.
  2. Bring a friend from home. Ask the teacher if your child can bring something from home to keep in their cubby like a stuffed animal or a photo.
  3. Do not sneak out. Say goodbye. Let them know you will see them later.
  4. Leave promptly. This will help the transition for your child, the teacher, and other children.
  5. Learn the other children’s names. It makes the school seem much more familiar and safer.
  6. Leave a lunch box note. Lunch box notes let your child know you’re thinking about them while they are at school. (1)

What to Expect When School Starts

Children are introduced to learning in Pre-K and kindergarten. Here are some highlights of what children will learn during these important educational phases: (5)

Pre-K Curriculum

  • All the letters of the alphabet
  • Learning how to write their names
  • Corresponding similar things (two shoes match and go with two socks)
  • Counting and simple addition under 10

Kindergarten Curriculum

  • Learning how to read simple sentences
  • The concept of time and how calendars work
  • The importance of the number 100 (100th day of school celebrations)
  • Addition and subtraction, greater than/less than
  • Play-based learning
  • Awareness of others’ feelings


Find Pre-K and Kinder Near Me


Sources and Additional Information on Pre K:

Go Public’s Education Timeline is the ultimate parent guide for navigating Pre-K through graduation. The purpose is to help parents know what to expect at each grade level and provide guidance on all that is offered in a public education. A huge benefit of public schools are the resources that support a student. The Education Timeline serves as a compass for navigating those resources. Each phase will also have helpful information, guides, and checklists.

The Timeline was researched and compiled from multiple sources cited throughout each phase. Refer to the timeline graphic below for the featured grade level. Click on each icon to learn more about what to expect and how to prepare.

Go Public content producer and parent of two public school students, Trina Pruitt, developed the Education Timeline to help herself and other parents learn what to expect at each phase of a child’s journey in school.