Starting preschool is always an exciting and emotional time for both you and your child. Beginning preschool is a big milestone in your child’s life but it is also often a big transition for them as well. Unless your child is in daycare for the equivalent amount of days and hours that they’ll be attending preschool, this transition can often be difficult. Even if they’re currently in daycare, this transition can still be difficult especially if they’ll be going to a new school or center.
How Can I Prepare My Child for Preschool?
Visit the school together
At Creative Learning we have daycare classes as well as preschool classes, so when a child transitions from our daycare class to preschool, they are staying in the same building they’re familiar with. However, this is not the case for all students entering preschool or even all of our own preschool students. If your child is starting preschool at a new school, doing a walk-through of the school with them is a great way to ease some of the transition stress. They’ll be able to see exactly where they’re going and being familiar with the environment can help reduce the stress and overstimulation of the first day!
Play school together at home
A great low-pressure way to help your child get prepared for preschool is to play school at home! This is a way to show your child some of what their new routine will look like in a way they can conceptualize. Switch it up and have your child be a student and the teacher. This pretend play is a great way to introduce your child to preschool and will help lessen the stress of the first day.
Start your routine early
Creating a new routine and starting it early is SO important! Waiting until the morning of their first day of preschool to have them dress themselves, get up earlier, not have tablet time, leave the house before playing, etc. will only result in more feelings of distress on the first day. Ease your child into their new routine and find ways to incorporate moments that will help them feel more calm and comfortable.
Have a goodbye plan
Coming up with a goodbye plan is a great way to make that transition during the first few days easier. Go over saying goodbye with your child beforehand and reassure them that you will see them soon at the end of the school day. Incorporate something fun and meaningful for your child into your goodbye like a secret handshake, a code word, or a special hug. This can help make saying goodbye fun instead of sad or overwhelming.
Read books about preschool
A great way to help prepare your child for preschool is to read books about preschool! Reading books about preschool can show your child a glimpse of what the experience will be like and gives your child the opportunity to learn about the experience and ask questions that may come up as they read and get to know what preschool is going to be like. By reading these books they will also hopefully get excited for different activities like story time or lunch.
Listen to your child’s concerns
Listen to the concerns or questions your child has about preschool. The easiest way to know what their fears are about preschool is to hear about them in their own words. Once you hear from them what they’re worried about you can start having conversations that address their concerns. Some of the other strategies mentioned may be helpful when your child expresses their concerns. For example, if they say they’re nervous about knowing where to go at school, that would be a great opportunity to ask the preschool if you can do a walk-through so your child can get acclimated.
“Listen” to your child’s nonverbal cues
Paying attention to what your child isn’t saying is just as important as listening to what they are saying. Nonverbal cues can be a great indicator of how your child is actually feeling. Anyone can say they’re okay but a child will show their true feelings through their actions. Pay attention to excessive clinginess, anger, outbursts, or withdrawing behavior around the time of their transition to preschool. When you notice this behavior, try to discuss which of their needs aren’t being met which is causing the action. Paying attention to these cues is a great insight into how your child’s feeling and what they might need more or less of during this transition.
Work on self-help skills
Another way to help reduce the stress your child will feel during the first few days of school is to work on their self-help skills beforehand. This can include taking off their coat, unzipping their backpack, and opening their lunch. While your child’s preschool teachers will obviously be able to help with these activities if your child can’t do them solo, having to ask for help can be stressful for some children. So helping them feel a little bit of independence by being able to perform some of these tasks is a good way to lessen their stress. Helping your child learn how to feel comfortable asking for help is also a good way to lessen the stress they’ll feel!
Make new friends
If possible, try to connect with the parents of some of your child’s future classmates. Organize a few play dates so that your children can get to know each other and build friendships. Having a few friends or even just kids they know can be very helpful with the transition of starting preschool. Socialization and friendship-making skills are very important for your child to learn so you may feel hesitant and want them to make friends naturally, however, your children will have the opportunity to make new friends not only in preschool but in all grades moving forward. Starting school with a friend or two in their class won’t ruin their social skills but it will help them feel more comfortable with the transition.
Tell them about your experiences
Lastly, tell your child about your own experience with starting school! Telling them about the things you were nervous about and how you got through it is a great way to help your child feel seen and heard. Also, tell them about what you found the most fun during school. That way, throughout the day your child can be on the lookout for the things you enjoyed and will have an idea of some of the things to expect. Sharing your own experiences is a great way to connect with your child and help them feel more secure in starting school themselves.