As summer is winding down and preparations for a fall routine are underway, you and your child may be feeling a bit anxious, excited, and even a little sad about the start of preschool. All of these feelings are completely normal; big changes are coming.
Fortunately, for you and your little one, there are many tips and strategies you can put into place to help your family settle into a new preschool routine.
Before preschool begins:
Try some of these tips to help your child prepare for preschool before it even begins:
Make a visit
Take your child to the school and let him walk around and possibly even see his classroom and meet his teacher. Many preschools will host a “Meet the Teacher” event a week or so before school begins; this is a good time to let your child familiarize himself with his classroom and school environment.
Leave for short periods of time
If preschool will be your child’s first experience being cared for by someone other than you, it may be a good idea to leave your child with a trusted friend or family member for short periods of time during the weeks leading up to preschool. In doing this, your child will learn that you will come back and that he is safe while you are away.
Read books about preschool
You can find lots of great books about going to preschool at the local library, bookstore, or online. Use these types of books and their illustrations to help your child learn what preschool looks like, hear words associated with preschool, and even provide examples of things he may be excited or worried about.
If your child will eat lunch at preschool, let him practice eating lunch out of his lunchbox at home. Ask him to practice cleaning up toys and placing them in a bin before he is able to move on to a new activity. Practice packing his backpack and letting him wear it around your house.
Establish a routine
Get your child practicing a good bedtime and morning routine a few weeks before preschool begins. Set an earlier bedtime and start waking him up around the same time each morning. Give you and him ample time each morning to get dressed, eat breakfast and get out the door without rushing.
Get together with classmates
Consider hosting a playdate for a few children from your child’s preschool class to help him meet new friends. Having familiar faces on the first day of school may help ease any separation worry when a child knows a few other children in the class.
The first few weeks of preschool:
Try some of these strategies to help make the first few weeks of preschool a little easier on both you and your child.
Give a short and sweet goodbye
As hard as it may be, say a quick goodbye and head out of your child’s classroom and school. Preschool teachers are well-trained in getting young children to calm down when separating from their parents—trust the process and be consistent. Most likely your son will eventually stop as he becomes more familiar with his new routine. When you pick up your son, reassure him that you came back for him just like you said you would.
Communicate with the teacher
Be sure to let the teacher know your child’s toileting patterns. Share tricks that work to help your child calm down if he is anxious. Disclose any medical issues or allergies. Offer up information about anything about his home life that may help him transition to preschool. Keeping an open line of communication with the teacher will be important as you establish a dialogue throughout the year.
Check the bag
Be sure to empty your child’s book bag each day when he comes home. Teachers will often put artwork, notes about a student’s day, and important forms for parents to complete in each child’s backpack.
Use a transitional object
Your child may need to bring a favorite small toy or lovie from home the first couple weeks of school to help with the transition. For some children, they may need it in their cubby so they can go over and touch it. Other children need to know it’s in their bag should they need it. Sometimes having something familiar from home can be enough to comfort a child who is missing their parent or having a hard time transitioning.
Starting preschool is an exciting time for most children, but it is also a major milestone that can make parents feel anxious about leaving their child for part of the day. Parents are often more nervous about the transition than their child. Try using these strategies to help make the transition to preschool life easier for everyone.