Entry to kindergarten – a significant event for the family

Wilfried Griebel & Renate drizzle

Entry to kindergarten is a unique event not only for children, but also for parents memory remains. Educators experience this beginning again at the beginning of each kindergarten year. It should be understood that the perspectives of children, parents and pedagogical staff differ. We wrote this article for parents and educational professionals. We would like to contribute to a better understanding of each other and to maintain a constructive dialogue right from the start.

Introduction: Two inner monologues

Educator: “Tomorrow the first new children are coming…. There are many again this year, almost half of the group will be newcomers, and many of them are only three years old. This is not easy for the children from the old group. Some will miss their best friends who go to school now, and those who are now big in the group will have to find their new role first. Not so easy to get the needs of the “old” and the new children under one roof at the beginning of a new kindergarten year. But after all these years, I know what to expect and how I can best react to it. Hopefully it will work as well as last year, when the grown-ups really looked after the little ones very lovingly and reliably: show where everything is, go to the toilet, practice the daily routine…. They were really proud… .. And hopefully there are not too many tears in the morning. Sometimes you really don’t know whether the child cannot separate from the mother or the mother cannot separate from the child. I don’t know very much about the children yet. Some will ask for my attention almost continuously and – when I think of the taster mornings – some real bullies are also there again. Parents are likely to expect to learn discipline here. It will take a few exhausting weeks and will often get hectic until the little ones really have become kindergarten children and all of them are a group again… ”(cf. the citation of this monologue as an introduction to the topic at Püttmann & Wortmann, 2015, p.16).

Mother: “Tomorrow is our first kindergarten day… So now the time has come. Our little one: a kindergarten child. And me: a proud kindergarten mother! Although, somehow I’m a bit wistful, it is coming to an end and letting go is not that easy. Hopefully he won’t cry tomorrow … When I think back how much we thought about kindergarten … It didn’t work out with my desired kindergarten, but it is nearby and the children from the neighborhood also go there. The manager seems to be okay, I’m not so sure about one of the teachers, hopefully he’ll get the other. Hopefully he’ll get it. On the morning of the trial, it suddenly seemed so tiny and lost to me, between the five and six year olds. Somehow I found it a bit messy. Everyone did what they wanted, and the teacher sat there. I thought they would do more together, in a group … under the guidance of the teacher, tinker or sing. They have to sit still later in school. Hopefully he will hold out all morning without me. On the other hand, he now needs kindergarten. He often gets bored at home. He now needs the other children and new ideas that I can no longer give him … He is rather shy, hopefully the teacher doesn’t miss him, he just needs a lot of attention … "

The introductory monologues were compiled from statements made by educators and parents, which were obtained as part of an empirical study on the transition from family to kindergarten (1995-1997) (Griebel & Drizzle, 1998; drizzle & Griebel, 2000). The kindergarten landscape has changed since then. The expansion of places for children who have not yet reached the age of three has led to the construction of many crèches and the opening of kindergartens for the youngest age group. Attention when entering a first facility outside the family, where they will spend part of their everyday life, has also increasingly focused on the youngest age group (drizzle & Griebel, 2015). In many daycare facilities, the age spectrum has expanded (Nied et al., 2011) Most children are still three years old when they manage to move from family to daycare. You may find a new environment in which not only older, but also younger children than they already belong. How to Rethinking children in a daycare center remains a profound experience for around three-year-olds.

What is a transition?

On the basis of developmental and social psychological research, a model was developed at the State Institute for Early Education (IFP) in Munich that can be used to describe striking changes that affect individuals, the whole family and their living environment (Bavarian State Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, Women and youth & State Institute for Early Education, 2012; Griebel & Drizzle, 2015). Such life events are the transition from partnership to parenthood when the first child is born (2004), the entry of the child into adolescence, when it critically examines its parents and experiences increasing independence (drizzle & Griebel, 2014), separation / divorce of the parents, new partnership and the formation of a step family (Griebel & Drizzle, 2004). Transitions in education, such as starting school, changing from a crèche to kindergarten, starting school for the first child and moving to a secondary school are also included (Griebel & Drizzle, 2015). Successful coping strengthens the skills of those involved, and benefits for coping with further transitions are expected. If it does not succeed, problems in coping with subsequent transitions are to be feared. If several transitions have to be mastered at the same time, the risk of being overwhelmed increases. When entering kindergarten, this can happen if e.g. a sibling is born, or if one of the parents takes up employment or if the job is lost.

Essential aspects of the transition are changes in identity, roles, relationships, the appearance of strong emotions and the experience of stress. All together gives a picture of “condensed development requirements”.

In addition, there is a change between different living environments. The internal psychological and interpersonal aspects of the reorganization and the adaptation to the diversity of living environments do not happen at the same time. For those affected, there can be a feeling of disorganization or disorder, but also a loss of control; after a period of adjustment, reorganization begins until a new balance is struck.

The consideration of the entry of the first child into kindergarten as part of the transition concept is helpful in order to better understand developments (desired and undesirable) during the settling-in period and to be able to react appropriately pedagogically.

The child and his parents are in a transition situation that will bring about a number of changes, while the educator is the professional companion of the transition from family to kindergarten. It has a key role to play in coping with children and families.

From the IFP transition model, which systematically represents development tasks at various levels, some key aspects of the transition are selected below, which were expressed particularly succinctly in the discussions with the children. From this we derive suggestions for educational support.

A transition is a process-based event

A transition is not a tightly timed event, but a longer-term process. The entry into kindergarten does not only take place on the first day, but begins with the preparations of the family and ends with the child’s acclimatization. It is critical to consider whether the conventional term “acclimatization” is the best term here – because it rather implies a passive image of the young child. This does not match his active approach to the world and his lively engagement with it and his own learning and experience, as has become the focus of the image of the young, competent child. The process sometimes takes longer than parents and educators expect. This can be seen in the reactions of the children, who are perceived as difficulties in settling into the facility. Most of the time, however, these are not behavioral problems, but reactions to the changes, which can take differently to master individually.

“Well, I’ve been here a little while now. Not that long. At first I didn’t want to, but mom showed me everything and I was allowed to visit them here. Visiting is better because I was allowed to go home when I wanted to. Now the visit is over. ”(Denise, 3; 3)

“When I was new, I was sad. With mom it was so cozy and here it was so much !! ”(Maxi, 4; 8)

“So first everything was new here. But after a few days it was old. So not really old, just for me – understand? ”(Toni, 4; 1)

For parents, considerations about which institution and when should your child start, long before the child actually registers and before the child is prepared. They are concerned with the well-being of the child in the institution, his “kindergarten readiness” and the planning of optimal support. Parents hope that their child will enter kindergarten as easily as possible. They compare their child with others who seem to get used to it faster. Expectations can sometimes be passed on to the child as pressure and become a stress factor for the child. In fact, the transition affects not only the child, but also the parents.

Pedagogical support: Allow enough time

The time between registering the child and entering kindergarten could be used more intensively to prepare for how children and parents settle in. Trial visits are common, staggered admission of children to about half of Bavarian kindergartens, and parents are usually allowed to stay with their child for a while.

It is important to inform parents about the goals of attending kindergarten and about the basics of education there if they are to realistically prepare their child and not influence the child against the background of their own faded or problematic experiences.

Many parents feel overwhelmed from the first parents’ evening. If the first parents’ evening is relieved of an overload of information, there would be more opportunity for questions and dialogue. Above all, information relating to the organization of the facility can be provided in writing in advance. If the child is directly involved in the admission process, there are opportunities to get to know him (and his parents) better and more personally. Many teachers complain that they know too little about the individual child and its nature, as well as about its family, when it comes to the group. This makes working with him more difficult in the initial phase.

Kindergarten teachers have to deal with their own expectations regarding the time period for settling in and they should also know what expectations parents have. Parents should also be given time for this process. Course observations are the basis for the description of the course of this initial phase of a visit to a daycare center. Parents need feedback on this and the clear message that longer periods of settling in can be “normal”. This relieves the parents, and if the educator and parents adjust to the child together, the child is also relieved.

Change of identity

A transition influences how a person understands and feels himself. The child feels “older” and “bigger” and experiences a higher status than children who are not yet in kindergarten. Over time, it develops a “we feeling” for its kindergarten. It is important for the child that he recognizes requirements and feels that they are up to them and that he can use the experience opportunities in kindergarten for himself. The self-image of being a “competent kindergarten child” wins.

The beginning of new phases in life is often accompanied by rituals that are common in a society. At the beginning of kindergarten this is less pronounced than e.g. at the beginning of school (school bag), but the new purchases for kindergarten (lunch bag, slippers, etc.) are particularly appreciated.

“I cried a lot when I was new here. But secretly. Nobody should see that. Because – I wanted to be a kindergarten child, and I didn’t want to either. My head didn’t really know. That’s how it was. ”(Petra, 4; 1)

“I was happy to come. I had a new dress and new shoes and a new kindergarten bag. It was worth it. ”(Steffi, 5; 1)

“A kindergarten child like me is pretty grown up. Not so babyish anymore. The little new ones are so terribly weepy. They always shout mom mom. I do not do this anymore. I want to go to school. ”(Laronne, 5; 4)

The change in identity applies not only to the individual, but also to the parents. They become "kindergarten parents" if they consciously perceive their child with its changing needs in the group of kindergarten children and support them in coping with their new requirements. This also means that they accept their membership in the “fellow parents” group and engage in new experiences in this capacity.

A certain change in their parents’ identity is expressed in the fact that they do not introduce themselves with their own names in parenthood as is usually the case with adults, but instead define about the child: "I am the mother of Sonja." What the transition for them Parents themselves meant that they could often only be described in retrospect. The question arises as to what the parents need themselves or what they have to do to become kindergarten parents.

Pedagogical support

In order to experience the change in identity, many institutions have introduced small rituals that underline the special importance of this day for the newly admitted children and in which the older kindergarten children take part. Example: A “big” kindergarten child hangs a pretzel around a new member of his group on a colorful ribbon and a card with the symbol, which the new child finds in his cloakroom and drawer.

Perhaps the parents could also be introduced with a welcome ritual, in which “older” kindergarten parents offer themselves as conversation partners. This would promote trust and a sense of belonging to parents.

Strong emotions / stress

The encounter with the unknown and the awareness that a new phase of life is beginning bring strong feelings for the family members. With all anticipation and curiosity about what is to come, the transition to kindergarten is also associated with loss and farewell. For the child, this is the experience of regular, temporary absence of the parents, which are the "safe basis" for them, in a new environment and without, that a relationship of trust has already been established with the educator. Research has described insecurities, fears and burdens for new children (Griebel & Drizzle, 2004, 2015). The degree to which they express grief, tension and anxiety, or else confidence and serenity, is likely to be determined by characteristics such as his temperament. Not all violent reactions from children can be directly linked to the way of settling into kindergarten. One should also be careful with attributions such as “excessive mother-child bond”, “overprotective parenting behavior”, because they distort the perception of relationships and can become a burden on the relationship between the educator and the child’s family. Strong emotional reactions when going to kindergarten are to a certain extent considered normal.

"I was very sad. I wanted to cry, but I didn’t dare. So many children and lots of tables and lots of chairs. I wanted to go back home, but mom didn’t allow it. I like to come. Only girls would be even better. ”(Sandra, 4; 2)

“When I was little here, I was so excited. I haven’t slept all night. I was happy and scared. Everything was so big and I always went behind mom. But then she put me in and – yes, that’s it ”. (Tino, 3, 8)

“So I was sad at the beginning too. I couldn’t imagine that. I prefer if I already know something. I was afraid of here all night. I shouldn’t have had to. It’s great here. I noticed that it will be great with me! ”(Desiree, 3; 1)

For their part, parents reported uncertainty about how their child would cope with the new requirements. They felt feelings of parting from a phase of life in which the parent-child relationship was experienced particularly closely (“nest feeling”). Entrusting the child to someone else for a certain time of the day also means losing control of the child. Some parents try to counter the discomfort that is felt by asking the child about the time in the group or asking the teacher about the child and trying to use them in a strong way for their own child.

Pedagogical support: Don’t be afraid to say goodbye

If the child cries and protests in the morning when brought, this is often attributed to the relationship between mother and child alone. Although relatively few children cry in the morning when they are accustomed to it, in our survey of educators it was more often stated that the child did not cry in the morning as a criterion for acclimatization. The emotional impact of the teacher, who witnesses the reactions of children and parents, may be responsible for the fact that she evaluates these reactions very qualitatively, whereas in quantitative terms they tend to concern individual cases. The tasks for the parents included called “letting go of the child”, “umbilical cord from the child”, “separation”, “giving up the child”, “giving it to someone else”. These terms seem almost dramatizing, because it means that the child is entrusted to professionally trained caregivers in a suitable environment for a foreseeable period of time. These names and labels of maternal behavior sometimes appear. problematic. These evaluations may be "sanctions" for the role expectations not fulfilled by the educators. There is a danger that a rivalry between “bad” mothers who “cannot solve” and educators as “better” substitute mothers who will make it easier for the child to get out of the confining family will be constructed. If you allow separation reactions, you will be more affected yourself. A conscious examination of your own feelings can bring clarification.

“Don’t be afraid to say goodbye” could be overridden to help you deal with strong feelings in children and parents. A better understanding than transitional reactions allows a more relaxed pedagogical approach to it.

Children and parents should not be expected to suppress their feelings. The experience that uncertainty and sadness subside and that the joy of something new prevails, that opportunities for action open up – that is the process that should be accompanied with pedagogical attention.


Entry to kindergarten is easier if it is understood, wanted, and supported by the child (and by the parents!). Then children can experience themselves as co-determinants of their résumés, active transitions to kindergarten children and be more successful than if they find themselves involuntarily and unsupported exposed to an unsafe, unknown environment in which they should somehow cope. It is important that educators – even those who have been active in their profession for a long time – are aware of this diversity of uniqueness / first-time on the one hand and professional distance and routine on the other. The kindergarten teachers with whom we spoke about the admission and acclimatization of children spontaneously said that every new kindergarten year was a transition for them too. This is further evidence that the change to the new kindergarten year is not only associated with special work requirements for educators, but also with emotions: the farewell to children who have come to school, perhaps also to parents who are working with Well of the facility worked particularly well. But also joy and curiosity about the new children and families resonate.

We want to encourage educators to reflect on their extensive pedagogical repertoire in terms of their role as pedagogical companions during the transition. We want to encourage them to start and maintain the dialogue about the transition with parents and children early on. These recommendations are in line with a guideline on the quality of cooperation with parents (Kobelt Neuhaus et al., 2014). It not only teaches specialists, but also parents, what is important in the collaboration: perceiving parents as experts for their children, getting to know their living conditions and clarifying role expectations means not only for the educators, but also for the parents willingness to engage in dialogue From the beginning. Knowledge of the concept for this phase is important for the parents when entering and settling into the daycare center and, ultimately, the joint design of transitions from one place of education to the next. Informed parents are more competent partners in dialogue with the specialists about the best possible education for children.


  • Bavarian State Ministry of Labor and Social Order, Family and Women & State Institute for Early Education (2012). The Bavarian education and upbringing plan for children in day care centers until school starts. 5th adult Ed. Berlin: CornelsenScriptor.
  • Griebel, W. & Niesel, R. (1998). The child becomes a kindergarten child: a transition for the whole family. In Schüttler-Janikulla, K. (ed.): Handbook for kindergarten teachers, kindergarten, preschool and after-school care, 28th delivery (pp. 1 – 14). Munich: mvg-verlag.
  • Griebel, W. & Niesel, R. (2004). Transitions. Promote children’s ability in day care facilities to successfully manage change. Weinheim: Beltz.
  • Griebel, W. & Niesel, R. (2015). Understand and accompany transitions. Transitions in children’s educational careers. Berlin: Cornelsen school publishers. 3rd act. and ext. ed.
  • Kobelt Neuhaus, D., Haug-Schnabel, G. & Bensel, J. (o.J., 2014). Quality of collaboration with parents. A guide to the educational field. Edited by the Karl Kübel Foundation for Children and Family and the Vodaphone Foundation Germany. Korschenbroich: the printing house
  • Nied, F., Niesel, R., Haug-Schnabel, G. and others (2011). Children in the first three years of age in mixed age groups. Expertise within the framework of the advanced training initiative for early childhood educators (WiFF). Munich: German Youth Institute e.V..
  • Drizzle, R. & Griebel, W. (2000). Start of kindergarten. Munich: Don Bosco.
  • Drizzle, R. & Griebel, W. (2014). Transitions. In R. Pousset (ed.). Early childhood handbook. With key terms of social work (4th revised edition) (p.472 – 475). Berlin: Cornelsen school publishers.
  • Drizzle, R. & Griebel, W. (2015). Children’s strength for the first transition: from the family to the daycare. Stuttgart: Kohlhammer.
  • Püttmann, C. & Wortmann, E. (ed.) (2015). Early childhood education – and professionalization. A learning task for pedagogy lessons. PROPÄDIX – Teaching material for pedagogy lesson 15 (school book) ed. v. E. Knöpfel. Baltmannsweiler: Schneider Verlag Hohengehren.

More contributions from Renate Niesel here in our family handbook

More contributions from Wilfried Griebel here in our family handbook


Wilfried Griebel, born 1951, psychologist, research assistant at the State Institute for Early Education in Munich. Focus of work in the field of family research and early childhood education; numerous publications and training activities

Renate Niesel, born 1948, psychologist, until 2012 research assistant at the State Institute for Early Education in Munich. Research focus: children in transition situations; numerous publications and training activities for pedagogical specialists in childcare


State Institute for Early Education

Created June 2, 2015, last modified June 2, 2015


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