There is no one person or organization that is fully responsible for getting our children ready for their first day of kindergarten.
It’s truly a community lift. With this in mind, on May 21, 2023 the Collaboration for Early Childhood hosted an event called Blast Off to Kindergarten in a local park. Over 100 families attended (out of roughly 350 potential new kindergarteners), along with 15 early learning programs, 10 community organizations, and 12 local kindergartens. The goal was to create a joyful, positive space to celebrate incoming kindergarteners and everyone who got them to this exciting point. We also wanted to connect families to resources to help ease the transition to kindergarten.
Here’s how we created a kindergarten readiness event at minimal cost, and how you can do it in your community, too.
1. We thought about what families might need to know before that first day of kindergarten, and who in our community could help us share that information:
- The Local Elementary School District
- Local Kindergarten programs
- Parent Teacher Organizations
- Before and After School Programs
- Places that Provide Health Screenings
2. We thought about other key community partners who would enhance and support the event:
- The Park District
- A local children’s dance and drumming organization
- The Public Library’s Book Bike filled with all kinds of books about starting kindergarten
3. We thought about how to make the event FUN and child-focused. For us, that looked like a space-themed event including a balloon-wall, a map and explorer card, our flying pig mascot greeting families, and a portal that children could run through that symbolized their journey from the “Early Learning Galaxy” to the “Kindergarten Galaxy.”
4. We thought about local businesses that have a connection to families and how they could enhance the theme. The Resource Fair is a tried and true event model, but we knew we wanted the event to be both fun and informative. We invited businesses to attend and bring either a game or a snack to share with families.
5. We nailed down a time and place. Our event was held in the park, and we are grateful to the local park district for allowing us to use the space, managing the permit logistics, and providing tables and chairs for all the partners who came out.
Once we had our list, our date and our location, we met with District 97, our local elementary school district, to describe our plan and ensure they were on board with the idea and could offer any additions or changes to the event early on. Then we invited all the other partners we identified and the ball was rolling!
In addition to preparing for the event, we wondered: what important resources could we share with families who might not be able to attend or who will be starting kindergarten in neighboring communities? We created a “Ready for Kindergarten” trifold, and built out a page on our website with key tips and information about kindergarten in our community and links to kindergarten registration in our neighboring communities.
- We minimized our costs by leveraging our partnerships. Our local park district provided tables and chairs, and managed all the event permit logistic for us, and we are very grateful to them for this. We invited small businesses to bring a snack or a game to share with families as part of their attendance requirement. Thanks to them, the event offered refreshments and an extra dose of fun at no cost to us.
- We brought the community together around a shared goal. Everyone who attended the event was glad to be there. Parent Teacher Organizations were able to quickly connect with incoming parents and share information directly. The elementary school district was able to greet future kindergartners and answer questions, and the early learning programs were able to be celebrated and build connections to strengthen bridges with the kindergarten community.
And that’s about it. You can do this in your community. In fact, you can steal all these ideas and use them for yourself. We don’t mind.
If you have additional questions about the details, please feel free to reach out to our Community Engagement Coordinator, Wendy Giardina at firstname.lastname@example.org.