Adjusting to preschool can be tough for both the child and the parent. Preschool is a big milestone – a time when your child starts to learn independence and self-sufficiency. The transition can be challenging, especially if your child is used to having you around. You may feel excited about the new things your child will learn and the beginnings of new friendships. At the same time, you may feel scared and anxious knowing that your child will venture into an unfamiliar environment without you. But how to prepare child for preschool?
There are three important goals that a child needs to learn in preschool: listen, follow directions, and be comfortable in a group setting. Preparation should be fun. Learning should not be like a chore for your child.
Here are some simple and fun ways to prepare child for preschool and make the transition smooth.
How to prepare child for preschool?
There are so many things a parent can do weeks before preschool starts. The tasks can be overwhelming but try to make the effort. Do not make a big deal out of this – focus on fun.
Read books that talk about preschool
Public libraries will have many books about going to preschool. Choose a few to share with your child before the big day comes. Discuss the stories in the book, and the emotions felt by every child, teacher, or parent. Ask your child about their own feelings as well. That way, both of you will be able to address this and when the time comes, it will be easier.
Explore the concept of preschool through pretend play
Kids love to play. Pretending that your home is a preschool helps prepare them for what’s in store ahead. Take turns being a parent, teacher, or a child. Act out normal daily scenarios, like saying goodbye, playing outside, reading stories, nap time, singing songs, or fixing books. Reassure your kid that preschool is a good environment to learn and have fun. When your child asks questions, answer them patiently.
Schedule a play time at the new preschool
Check with the school when you can visit the preschool together. Help your child become familiar with the new environment. Play in the school park a few times. These visits before the big day will help your child be more comfortable and less anxious.
Create games that focus on self-sufficiency
Let your child develop self-help skills, like tying their shoelaces, getting dressed, opening their lunchboxes, or putting on their backpack. At home, have a race to see how fast your child can put on their shoes. Have a picnic together and let your child practice opening lunch boxes on their own and unwrapping their sandwiches.
Observe any non-verbal messages
As the big day comes nearer, your child may have mixed emotions. Worry, sadness, or excitement may be felt all at the same time. They may have concerns or questions about starting preschool.
Three-year-olds may be talkative at this stage, but they may have difficulties fully expressing how they feel. When they need to express emotions, they may act out instead. They may become more clingy, withdrawn, or sometimes more aggressive. Your child may also ask help from you in most things that they already know how to do.
While it is common to be impatient or frustrated about these behaviors, learn to understand your child. Remember that going to preschool is a major change in your child’s life. Support, nurture and be patient with them as they go through this experience.
Listen to any worries and concerns your child feels
When your child expresses worry about going to preschool, let them know that they are heard. Reassure them that these feelings are normal and that every child goes through this stage. Any concerns they have, no matter how big or small, can affect their preschool experience significantly.
As you start the countdown to the big day, here are a few things to remember to prepare your child for preschool:
2 weeks before school begins
- Purchase school materials together. Let your child choose their own backpack, lunchbox, pens, or coloring materials. This gives them a sense of independence and self-control. Letting them decide for themselves also gives them the feeling of being a “big kid”.
- If the school offers a pick-up and drop-off service, you can choose to have that option. If you prefer, you can do these things yourself – which is important especially during the first few days. Coordinate with the school to know about the schedules. Inform your child of the routines in the morning and afternoon. This assures your child that they will be safe and cared for.
- Form the habit of sleeping early. If your child is used to sleeping late, start getting them into the “school bedtime” routine two weeks before preschool starts.
The night before preschool starts
- Patiently answer any questions your child may have.
- Give them the freedom to choose what they want to wear on their first day.
- Go to bed on time.
- Create a bedtime routine that will let your child sleep peacefully.
The Big Day
- Wake up early so that you and your child will have enough time to prepare.
- Prepare a healthy breakfast and eat with your child. Review the schedule with them as you both get ready.
Separation anxiety is normal – especially for a three-year-old going through preschool.
Stay a little longer
On the first day of school, stay for about 10-15 minutes to help make the transition go smoothly. Explore the classrooms together, meet other kids, or play with new toys. Leave when you see that your child feels comfortable.
Keep goodbyes short and simple
When it’s time to leave, do not linger. Children pick up on adults’ reactions. If they see that you are scared or worried, they too will feel that. Reassure your child that everything will be fine.
Preschool is a time for huge growth and development. With these simple preparation tips, you can make this change into a confidence-building experience for both you and your child.
To give your child the best preschool experience, visit us at Wee Care. Our patient and skilled teachers will ensure that your child will have enjoyable learning moments in school.