Starting preschool is the beginning of a new phase in a child’s development and often times many parents ask themselves, ‘Is my child ready for preschool?’. Even if your child has previously attended a crèche, the preschool is a new place where your little one will make new friends, learn new skills, gain confidence and independence.
This early start sets your child on the path for later school success, but it is not always easy. You and your child may be feeling a mix of emotions- excitement, anxiety, sadness, etc. You may be excited about all the fun he will have, the new friends he will make and all, at the same time you may feel a little sad that your baby is venturing into the big world without you. These emotions are perfectly normal.
Emotionally preparing your child (and yourself) for preschool will go a long way in helping her adapt to preschool life and activities, and there is a lot you can do to get her ready for her big day. Here are a list of things to do to ensure a smooth transition:
BEFORE PRESCHOOL STARTS:
- Visit the preschool– Visit your child’s school and meet the preschool teacher a few days ahead of time. Ask if you can tour the school together with your child. With the help of the preschool teacher, show your child where she’ll keep her backpack and lunch box.
- Act it out– Use your child’s penchant for pretend play to prepare him for preschool. Act out saying goodbye to mummy and daddy, getting on the school bus, going to school, hanging up your backpack, and sitting down for group time. Play games, read stories, and make a simple snack. Teach your child a few basic social skills. Talk about how to get someone’s attention, take turns, or join in play.
- Practice self-help skills– Going to preschool marks a big developmental leap for your child and independence will become a larger focus. Help your toddler master self-help skills like washing her hands, using the toilet, putting shoes and socks on, and using utensils at the table.
- Shift your schedule– As your child experiences her first few weeks of preschool, gradually make any necessary changes in your routines. Work to create a calm, peaceful environment at home and make sure your child goes to bed at a reasonable hour. Offer a healthy breakfast and spend time outdoors.
Developing consistent, predictable routines a few weeks before school starts will make the transition much smoother.
- Get organized– As the first day of preschool approaches, make sure you have clothing, shoes, and backpacks (let your child choose this himself, this gives him a sense of control and emphasises that he is a big kid starting preschool) organized and labelled with your child’s name in permanent ink. Turn in all forms fully completed to the school. Stock up on healthy snack and lunch foods.
- Contact the preschool’s health professional if your child has medication that he or she takes on a daily basis. There will be special rules and forms to fill out for your child to receive medication at school.
The last few weeks before starting preschool seem to fly by! And the day you have both been waiting for (or dreading) is already a night away. See below some last minute things to do.
The night before preschool:
- Answer any last-minute questions from your child.
- Let your child choose (weather- and school-appropriate) clothes for her first day, if her uniform is not ready.
- Make sure that your child goes to bed on time; Pick a bedtime that gives your child a good night’s rest before the first day.
- Keep the bedtime routine soothing and relaxing. Don’t focus too much (or at all!) on the first day of school unless he wants to.
- Wake up early enough so that you and your child don’t have to rush to get to preschool.
- Make breakfast for your child and, if possible, sit down to eat together—or at least talk with her as she eats and you get ready.
- Review the day’s routine (what preschool will be like, how your child will get to school/come home).
- Pack your child’s lunch box together; select foods that you know are his favourites. Having some familiarity on his first day is helpful as he adjusts to so many changes
These strategies can ease the jitters of separating on your child’s first day at preschool.
Keep your tone positive and upbeat: Children pick up on the reactions of the trusted adults in their lives. So try not to look worried or sad, and don’t linger too long. Say a quick, upbeat good-bye and reassure your child that all will be well.
Think about creating a special good-bye routine: For example, you can give your child a kiss on the palm to “hold” all day long. Or, the two of you can sing a special song together before you leave. Good-bye routines are comforting to children and help them understand and prepare for what will happen next.
Resist the Rescue: Try not to run back in the classroom if you hear your child crying, as upsetting as this can be. This is a big change and your child may, quite understandably, feel sad and a little scared. But if you run back in, it sends the message that he is only okay if you are there and it is likely to prolong your child’s distress and make it harder for him to adapt. Rest assured, teachers have many years of experience with helping families make the shift to preschool. Instead, you can wait outside the classroom for a few minutes to ensure that all is well, or call the school later in the morning to check in.
Preschool is a time of tremendous growth. With just a little preparation, you can make this transition a confidence-building experience for both you and your child.