Discover what you can do to make the transition to preschool easier for your child.
Continue reading to learn the timeline for what needs to be done before starting preschool and advice on making separation easier on your child’s first day.
If your youngster is beginning preschool this September, you could be experiencing conflicting emotions. You’re excited about the fun your child will have and the new friends he’ll meet. But, you may also feel a little sad that your little tyke is venturing out into the wide world without you.
Your child is also going to have a host of feelings regarding this milestone, feeling happy to be a ‘big’ kid but also worried about being separated from mom and dad and anxious about the unfamiliar.
Having Fun with Preschool Prep
There’s much you can do in the time before to prepare for that first day.
Do try to keep it low-key. Making too big a deal out of it could make him or her more worried than excited.
Here are some great ideas you can try out to keep the focus on having fun.
Imaginary Play to Explore the Idea of Preschool
Take turns pretending to be the parent, child, and preschool teacher. Act out daily routines, such as; saying good-bye, hanging your coat, circle time, reading stories, outside time, and taking naps.
Emphasize that preschool is a place to have fun and learn. Answer all questions patiently and thoroughly. Imaginary play will help kids feel in control, reducing their anxiety.
Read Books about Preschool.
There is a broad range of books about going to preschool. Pick a few to share with your kid the summer before preschool begins. Talk about the story and what the characters are experiencing.
Practicing Self-Help Skills
These include negotiating zippers, hanging a coat in the cubby, putting on a backpack, fastening shoes. By playing school together, you give your child the chance to practice performing many of the tasks that will be required of them. If your child will be eating a home lunch, pack it up one or two days before school begins and ‘mock’ school lunch together.
This will give a child the opportunity to practice unpacking a lunch box and unwrapping their food; valuable skills for the first day of school!
Your child may also have certain concerns about preschool, before and after the first day.
Use these two key strategies:
1) Listen to Your Child’s Worries
It’s tempting to simply reassure your kid and move on.
But, it’s important to allow your child to know that any worries have been heard. No matter what those worries are, a child’s worries about preschool can significantly influence the quality of their experience.
Let your kid know that it’s normal to feel glad, sad, excited, frightened, or concerned.
Explain how something new can seem scary and that it’s normal to feel that way. It’s helpful to talk about a time when you started something new and how it felt.
By allowing your child to share any worries, you’ll help him or her to think through how best to deal with them.
2) Notice Nonverbal Signs
As much as your child may talk, most are not able to explain how they’re feeling or what their worries are.
Your child may express worry by:
- Becoming withdrawn
- Being more aggressive
Another common reaction is to actually regress in other areas.
Children who are potty trained may start have toileting accidents. They may ask to be fed or dressed even though capable of doing these things unaided.
Remember that your child is facing a big step in life. Children may need more support, and patience from you while making this transition.
The Preschool Countdown: What to Do and When
The few weeks before starting preschool can sneak up on you, here are some things to bear in mind:
Two Weeks before the First Day:
- Label everything; backpack, coat, shoes, blanket, stuffed toy, etc. with your child’s name in permanent ink.
- Contact the preschool 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.
- Start moving to a fall schedule. Kids often get to bed later during the summer months. Get into a preschool schedule by keeping to a school bedtime. Start about two weeks before school opens.
The Night before:
- Answer last-minute questions
- Allow your child to choose clothes for the first day
- Keep bedtime soothing and relaxing.
The First Day:
- Review the day’s routine (what school will be like, how they’ll get to school and come home).
- If your child is bringing lunch, pick foods that you know will be eaten. Having some familiarity on the first day is soothing
- Choose a special stuffed animal or blanket to bring to school to make naptime easier
These strategies can ease the anxiety of separating on the first day of preschool.
Drop off and Go
Staying usually does not ease the transition, your child will expect to you stay the whole time, and become more upset when you do finally leave. You may want to ask the teacher to stay with your child as you say good-bye so there is another caring adult available for emotional support.
Try not to appear worried or sad, and don’t linger longer than necessary. Say a quick, happy good-bye and remind your child that all will be well.
Creating a Good-Bye Routine
You could give your child a kiss to ‘keep’ until pickup time, or even sing a special song together before you leave.
Good-bye routines are comforting and help children understand what will happen next.
Don’t Run Back In
Don’t run back in the classroom if you hear your child crying.
Preschool is a giant change and your child may feel sad or a little scared. But running back in sends the message that it’s only okay when you’re there and will prolong the child’s distress; making it harder to adapt.
Preschool teachers have years of experience helping families make the transition to preschool. Although you can wait outside the classroom for a few minutes to make sure that everything is fine.