Preparing for Preschool
Owen transitioned from the toddler program into preschool in early summer. Although he was certainly ready for moving up, the timing was unique in that he entered the preschool program as summer camp curriculum was starting. Summer camp at his child care center is fun-filled days of casual activities and themes. Many days have the three preschool classes combined giving the younger children time to explore and do activities with the older preschoolers. I love the social experiences the kids receive in this mixed-aged setting. But this setting also provided a tougher transition for our active boy who is working on his self-control skills. As fall approaches, however, I’m preparing for another transition into the more traditional preschool curriculum. I’m also planning a “do over” for preparing him for preschool so that he’s ready for school. Here are some that I’ve gathered here and there.
Tips for Preparing for Preschool
- Talk about the Daily Schedule. Most preschoolers do well when they know what to expect. Sharing the daily schedule with your child can go a long way in helping your child adjust to preschool. Your child’s preschool teacher should be able to share this with you prior to the first day of preschool. With my 7-year-old daughter, I also found it helpful to read children’s books about going to school. A couple of good ones: Llama, Llama Misses Mama, I Am Too Absolutely Small for School, Preschool Day Hooray
- Connect with the Teacher. Whether your child is transitioning from a toddler classroom, from a home daycare, from grandparent care, or simply starting preschool for the first time, the best advice for preparing for preschool is to connect with the teacher and find out the best way to have parent-teacher communications. Some teachers are more available during drop off and pick-up times, others prefer to connect when it’s not so hectic by phone or even email. Your child’s teacher should be a partner in his/her early education and can be a great resource for helping your child during the first days of preschool and all year long.
- Routine, Routine, Routine. As best as you can, it’s best to establish a new bedtime (if needed) and morning routine well in advance of starting preschool. As a working mom, I try to keep the routine fairly in check all year long. Transitional periods can wreak havoc on even the best laid schedules, however, so also plan to be flexible and buffer in extra time if needed. Because Owen has struggled with drop-off, I’ve been spending a little more time with him in the classroom meaning I’ve had to adjust my morning routine to accommodate his needs.
- Create a Goodbye Plan. Drop-off can be challenging especially if your preschooler is clinging to you (ahem – Owen). It can help to establish a goodbye plan and remind your child each day until the routine is established: “We’re going to go to your classroom, store your lunch and belongings, read a book, and then mommy is going to give you a big hug and say goodbye.” Establishing the right routine can take some time – it took us a couple of weeks to find a solution that worked for Owen and there are still days he clings to me.
- Make a Big Deal of the First Day. The first day of preschool is a big deal and should be treated as such. A new backpack, a first day of school photo, a special breakfast – these go a long way in helping children know that something new and special is happening. Make it a big deal even if your child transitions in the middle of the month with no other children. One of our bloggers, Mary, lists 21 ideas to make the first day of school special. I love this list and there are some great ideas for everyday – like lunchbox notes!
- Tantrums & Meltdowns May Happen. For some preschoolers, transitions are simply hard. Tantrums and meltdowns are not uncommon as young children adjust to something new. I’ve come to expect this with both my children. My solution is a lot of patience alongside a change in activity. If my children are acting out, it usually means we need some quiet book time or some space for them to settle down. Trying to enforce more rules (such as insisting on sitting down to dinner) tends to add fuel to the fire. In these instances, it’s best just to switch up routine and redirect.
Most importantly for parents, the best way to prepare for preschool is to simply enjoy the day…and year! This is a big milestone for your family and worrying over the bumps is not worth missing out on the joys of the preschool years.
- Learn more about the Bright Horizons preschool curriculum and how Bright Horizons early education centers prepare preschoolers for school readiness.
- Bright Horizons Online Community: Preschool Parenting Discussions
- E-family news: Moving On Up – Transitioning to the Next Early Childhood Classroom
- Read more posts about preschoolers and posts about transitions from the Family Room bloggers