Time to Enroll in Kindergarten! Making the Transition Smooth for Your Family

Last month many families gathered for our Kindergarten Readiness Nights in Issaquah, White Center and Greenwood. The events featured an overview of the Kindergarten enrollment process, a panel about the transition, and a chance for Q & A.

Kindergarten! The transition to Kindergarten is a really exciting one, and one that can be a big change for any preschooler, whether they are coming from a traditional indoor classroom or the woods of Cougar Mountain. 

Tiny Trees has launched three cohorts of outdoor preschoolers to Kindergartens across King County since opening in 2016, each child experiencing the transition differently. One alumni family wrote, “Our year at Tiny Trees was magical and has left an indelible mark on all of us. (Our daughter) still loves climbing trees and exploring. This was actually our first year in public, full day school. The transition has been challenging. But, we are always able to come back to nature at the end of the day. We just walk through the neighborhood collecting small treasures and it helps smooth over the long day.”

Our goal is to help our families to feel prepared to enroll in Kindergarten programs and to help their Tiny Tree to weather the transition just like they do they rain. We wanted to share out our slide information (below) as well as some notes from our panel conversations.

Kindergarten Enrollment

What Types of Schools are There?

  • Neighborhood School (Attendance School) –Public school assigned by attendance area or through Open Enrollment, run by the school district (free)
  • Option School (Choice School) –Public school of choice run by the district (free), enrolled through Open Enrollment, Map of Option Schools
  • Charter School –Public School of choice not run by the district (free) 
    • Impact Public Schools – Puget Sound Elementary
    • Soar Academy – Tacoma
  • Private School (Independent School) –Private School of choice, not run by the district (tuition based)
  • Home School & Co-ops –Education provided by parents for their children only

What are the Public School Districts near my Tiny Trees Park?

  • Seattle Public Schools: Be’er Sheva Park, Jefferson Park, Camp Long, Olympic Sculpture Park, Carkeek Park
  • Highline Public Schools: Seahurst Park
  • Federal Way Public Schools: Five Mile Lake Park
  • Lake Washington School District: Big Finn Hill
  • Issaquah School District | Bellevue School District: Cougar Mountain
  • Shoreline School District: Carkeek Park
  • Auburn School District: Five Mile Lake

When do I enroll? (Key enrollment dates)

  • Seattle Public Schools
    • Jan. 6: Online Registration Opens for New Students
    • Jan. 18: Admissions Fair (Mercer Middle School)
    • Feb. 3-14, 2020: Open Enrollment for Option Schools 
  • Highline Public Schools
    • Jan. 22, 2020: Kindergarten Registration Begins
    • Dec. 10 – Jan 31: Accepting In-district transfer requests
  • Federal Way – Now open, School Choice Application must be submitted by 4:30pm on February 14th.
  • Lake Washington -Thurs Feb. 20th (in person at neighborhood schools) 
  • Issaquah – begins February 3, and must be completed by March 6
  • Bellevue – K enrollment is open and Open Enrollment closed Friday, January 
  • Shoreline- begins on Tuesday, February 4th at your neighborhood school. All students registered by the close of business on February 28th will be put in a drawing to fill Kindergarten spaces available at their neighborhood schools

What materials do I need to enroll?

Typically, the following materials are needed. Please check with your intended school or district to verify:

  • Registration/application/enrollment form (basic information)
  • Parent-Guardian ID
  • Proof of student age (usually a birth certificate)
  • Proof of immunization
  • Special Education Form (if needed)
  • Proof of address (sometimes 2 forms are requested) 
  • Emergency and medical provider contact information

Dual Language Learning 

Many districts have immersion and dual language classrooms at some schools. You may need to complete an inter-district transfer or a choice form during open enrollment. 

Some districts have a language survey to better understand children’s needs at school. See your district’s website for more information. 

For immigrant and refugee families, helpful information is found here.

Families Experiencing Homelessness

You have the right to enroll in the local attendance area school nearest to their nighttime residence. Upon request, transportation is provided to students and youth if qualified according to district transportation standard. You must contact the school and the district and let them know that you qualify for these supports at the time of enrollment. 

For families experiencing homelessness, additional enrollment information is available here.

Support for children of all needs

If you suspect a child has a disability, Child Find offers free screenings to identify children who would benefit from additional school services. You may also request simple accommodations for diagnosed medical needs at the school by requesting a 504 plan. If your family is living in a temporary situation, you may contact the district where you are currently staying for a screening.

The Washington Kindergarten Inventory of Developing Skills (WaKIDS) is a transition process that helps to ensure a successful start to the K-12 experience and connect the key adults in a child’s life. It includes three steps:

  • Family connection welcomes families into the Washington K-12 system as partners in their child’s education.
  • Whole-child assessment helps kindergarten teachers learn about the skills and strengths of the children in their classrooms so they can meet the needs of each child.
  • Early learning collaboration aligns practices of early learning professionals and kindergarten teachers to support smooth transitions for children. 

Advocating for your Child


  • Visit your district webpage to learn about schools, programs and enrollment details.
  • Call your district office to learn about open houses or info. sessions
  • Follow your district on social media to stay informed on news, updates and deadlines.
  • Follow your school to stay informed on opportunities for  incoming kindergarten students to help them be “ready for kindergarten” in the fall. These programs include PreK Play & Learn, Kindergarten Jump Start and WaKIDS. 
  • Connect with other families! Talk to your Tiny Trees teachers!

The Transition to Kindergarten from Outdoor Schools

We are also so grateful for our panel of four amazing educators & parents. We learned so much from our panel. Three big takeaways included:

  • Be an advocate for your child. Make sure to connect and form a team with your child’s teacher. Do your research.
  • Take it slow. Don’t overschedule during the first several months. The transition is tiring for your little one! “Expect the very worst from your child. They will be a mess when they get home.”
  • Sign up for Jumpstart. It’s free! And helps so much with the transition.

A few families have questioned whether the transition to Kindergarten will be harder for children attending outdoor preschools. According to our panel, there are a few major differences that can be supported with some tips:

  • In Kindergarten, there is less time to be outside during the day. In fact, about 45 minutes in each school day on average. Tip: Carve out time before or after school to play on the playground or outside around the house. Expect your Kindergartener to be exhausted, but still need to move their bodies. Provide them with reminders of what behaviors can happen outside v. inside. 
  • There’s lots of sitting. Tip: Just like we do in outdoor preschool, little pockets of time to be still are developmentally appropriate ways to approach your wiggly kiddo. Wendy, a Kindergarten Teacher at STEM, suggested “Get used to storytimes at libraries to get used to sitting still with other kids around. Give them opportunities to practice for short amounts of time. Celebrate it.” Looking at schools where the Kindergarten teachers believe in the importance of play is your kid’s best bet.
  • What about academics? Tip: “They don’t need to know the whole alphabet when they enter Kindergarten,” said Genya, K teacher at Pathfinder. Just like we do at Tiny Trees, panelists recommended experiencing math and literacy in the environments that you live– at the grocery story, at home, in the park. Reading to your child is an important Kindergarten readiness tool.

More tips from parents:

  • Transition tips for home: Less pressure is best when their brains are processing so much change and learning. Often children will hold it together with all of the excitement of learning, and have a lot less emotional energy left to cope at home. Tip: If possible, don’t plan much after school. Feed them a snack, have some downtime or play time, and move bedtime up for the first couple of months of school. One parent shared how they moved bedtime up slowly towards the end of summer to prepare. 
  • Teaching Transitions: Kindergarten has a lot more moves between spaces (Lining up and moving as a group from the classroom to the lunch room, to the playground, to the library, etc.) Tip: you can find fun ways to practice lining up, moving as a group. It helps to talk about community and how “we need to stay together”. This can help children understand transitions as a necessary part of the school community, rather than just a lot of instructions. 
  • Connecting early helps everyone know what to expect. Jump Start is similar to “practice kindergarten” and also includes a parent tour. Children often make friendships there that can make the first few days easier.  Tip: get dates now for your school so you can plan summer vacations around them. You can also join a school PTA or facebook to meet other parents and start connecting with the school community. Some schools have events open to the public that you can go to. (Example, Highland Park has a community movie night) 
  • Supporting children’s transitions. Now is a great time to start practicing independence! Tip: have children carry their own backpacks, get things ready for the next day to make mornings easier, etc. Lunch time in Kindergarten is shorter, and there may not be a teacher present to help. Tip: If you pack a lunch, it’s helpful to open packages ahead of time and use containers that are easy to open. 

We are grateful to support your family in this transition! If you have additional questions or need support, we recommend that you reach out to your child’s teacher, or your class’s program supervisor, with any additional questions. We’re always happy to help and look forward to continuing to see your children thrive throughout their journeys with us and beyond.

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