As with adults, children will approach the idea of going to preschool with a variety of emotions. Those with adventurous spirits see it only as new lands to conquer full of excitement and fun. The more cautious souls, while being intrigued with the idea, will experience unease, uncertainty and apprehension.
Following are some concrete ideas of things you can do to help your child be ready when that important first day arrives.
Backpacks are fun! Every child loves a backpack. Have fun picking one out. (We suggest a full size backpack so it can hold a full set of extra clothes as well as large art projects.) Let your child wear it around as much as he wants to. Have fun filling it with goods around the house – even while wearing pajamas.
Make special notes and pictures and put them in the backpack. During various times of the day take the notes and drawings out and talk about how seeing them helps your child remember how much she is loved. While looking at the note or picture, give your child a big hug. This will create a positive feeling for your child that is associated with the notes. Each time they look at the note or picture they will remember those moments.
Prepare a “getting ready to go” picture chart. Help your child talk through all the things that will happen in the morning before preschool. Seeing these simple activities laid out in sequence will build a routine. Children thrive on routines so having this in place on preschool mornings will begin the day much more smoothly. Some children especially need the visual images to make sense of things in their brains.
Role play going to preschool. Practice walking through the door, saying hi to her teacher, putting away her backpack and beginning to play. At this point remind your child that you will leave but she gets to stay and do lots of new activities. (Actually walk out of the room when you do this.) Then come back and say in a very excited voice, “I’m back! Mommy (or Daddy) always comes back. I am so excited to see you and to hear about your preschool!”
Visit school. Our preschool families should have all received information about our visitation days. Plan to bring your child to see the room and meet his teacher! (Even older schools have times for kids to visit. Here’s a photo of one of our alumni children and her sister on their school sneak-a-peek)
Take cues from your child, encourage him to explore the room – even let them explore a little distance away from you. Remember, kids sense your emotions so even if you are struggling with this new phase in life try to exude confidence and excitement. Several times remind your child that next time they come to school they will stay while you leave but you will always come back!
Visit again. Stop by and play on the playground before your child’s first day. A little reminder, our Discovery Days and Preschool Lite classes use the smaller playground while all preschool classes use the big side. Be sure to help your child experience the area he/she will play in. If all of our families are stopping by to play you may even see someone that is in your child’s class.
Here is a link to another article with many more ideas about starting preschool: http://www.zerotothree.org/early-care-education/child-care/preschool-prep-how-to.html
Hopefully these ideas will give you and your child plenty of opportunities to talk about the fun experience she will enjoy at preschool. As I mentioned in our last blog post, we are busy getting ready. Ready for fun. Ready for play. Ready for practicing new skills. Ready for your child!