As a parent, sending a child off to preschool can be a little concerning. We want our sons and daughters to have a positive experience and strong start in life. After all, we all know quality early childhood education can build a solid foundation for social skills and cognitive development. Unfortunately, this new beginning can find many of us worrying and questioning if our little ones are ready for this big step. Thankfully, there are a variety of ways we can help prepare our children as they embark on this new journey.
Scroll through the following suggestions to make the transition to preschool a little less scary for everyone:
Encourage independence. To prepare our kids for preschool, we need to help develop their basic self-care skills. Teach children how to master nose wiping, using the restroom, washing their hands, opening basic lunch containers, zipping their coats or backpacks, brushing their teeth, and encouraging them to cover their mouth when they cough or sneeze. Take advantage of the power of music and songs like “This Is The Way“, “Good Morning, Mr. Rooster“, or “Brush Your Teeth” to make this a fun and engaging process.
Find opportunities for children to experience group settings. We should do our best to get our kids comfortable with sitting and listening to someone besides us in a non-threatening environment. Try attending free a story hour at the local library or a toddler group.
Practice new routines. Don’t wait until the night before to implement a new bedtime or wake-up schedule. Adjust sleep schedules gradually, preferably a few weeks beforehand, so kids will be well rested the first few days of class and won’t be as likely to have a breakdown. Try using a soothing lullaby to help wind down before bed time to make falling asleep easier.
Learn the school’s expectations about potty training. Many schools have differing policies and requirements for students. Some won’t take children unless they are potty trained, while others are happy to help with the training process. Avoid any problems or embarrassment by finding out what is expected of your child. Then we can help our kids be comfortable with using the bathroom at preschool.
Arrange play dates with future classmates. Ask the teacher for a list of students who will be in class with your child to arrange opportunities for the kids to get to know each other and interact among peers. As an added bonus, parents often tag along and this offers us chances to make new friends in the process.
Ask for a tour. Kids often worry about the unknown, so help ease concerns by showing them their classroom, introducing them to their teacher, locating the restrooms, and more.
Let them shop for school supplies. Get kids excited about school by letting them choose a new backpack or crayons. While shopping, make sure to talk about what activities they might do with their new scissors, notebooks, or markers.
Share stories from when you went to school. Talk about your own days of going to school and how you felt about it. If you have photos, make sure to proudly show off your youthful looks and styles. Let them ask questions and listen to any of their concerns.
If your child hasn’t been cared for someone else before, begin leaving him or her with friends or relatives. Being separated from mom or dad for the first few times can be hard for some children. Make going to preschool easier by getting them used to being left with someone new. Remind them that they are safe and you will return shortly.
Take advantage of the countless books that address going to school and saying goodbye. Reading aloud is a great opportunity to introduce preschool concepts to kids and model appropriate coping skills without overwhelming them. Listed below are a few recommendations:
- The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn
- David Goes to School by David Shannon
- Will I Have a Friend? By Miriam Cohen
- My Preschool by Anne Rockwell
Share a personal belonging with your child to keep safe until you pick them up. This simple gesture allows children to know you will be back to get the item- and them! Some items to consider: a bracelet, necklace, scarf, or bandanna.
Be ready for a quick goodbye. Avoid long goodbyes, because they often make things worse for the child. Let your child know you will be leaving them at school, but will return to pick them up. Create a routine where you give them a quick reassuring hug or kiss and say goodbye.
Be positive! Kids feed off our anxiety and stress. Avoid saying anything negative about school, their teacher, or friends. We need to be a good example during this time.
How do you get your kids ready for preschool?