Starting preschool is one of the many exciting milestones of childhood. However, it can also be a stressful time for both children and parents, especially if it is your child’s first time going to school. By taking some time to prepare your child and yourself, the transition can go smoothly for your whole family.
While it's true that children learn more in their first three years than ever again, it's between ages three and five that they acquire the skills necessary for school. As children's attention span, memory and language skills develop, they also become increasingly more sophisticated and social—qualities they'll need for preschool.
Emotionally preparing your child – and yourself – for preschool might take more intentional effort. Below are some few ideas to help you make this transition smoothly.
1. Play Games
Children learn so much from playing. In preparation for preschool and life in general, it is so helpful if you can take the time to play games regularly with your children. This could mean board games, card games or ball games. It doesn’t matter what the game is, as long as your child is playing with other people.
When you are playing these games regularly, please, please make sure that you don’t let your child win all the time. It is a subtle way of teaching resilience.
2. Share Attention
Teach your child that they need to share attention, whether this is with their siblings and cousins or with other adults within the home. Don’t let your child demand your attention immediately if you are doing something else.
They are soon going to be in an environment with many other children and it will be necessary for them to learn to wait their turn.
3. Attend Playgroups
Before starting preschool, playgroups are the closest thing to replicate a preschool environment. Think of it as a soft introduction: there are many other children to play with, toys to share and games to win and lose, secure in the knowledge that parents are still in attendance for the duration.
I would recommend you find a playgroup that uses story times (or start one). Alternatively, your local library should offer story times. Group time and group reading is a big component of the preschool day. It’s great for everyone if your child has already had some practice sitting calmly and attentively in a story time situation.
4. Overnight Stays with Their Grandparents or Other Relatives
Encourage and enable your child to participate in overnight stays at their grandparent’s house (or with an aunt or uncle). The benefits of doing this are tremendous and grandparents love it - they’ve been waiting for this!
Your child will get used to the idea of being away from you for an extended period of time in an extremely safe, loving and familiar environment. It also introduces change. Your child will need to sleep in a different room with a different bed etc. They will have to eat food cooked by someone else and follow the rules that their grandparents set.
5. Introduce Routines and Consistency
Your child will be expected to follow the routines at preschool. When your child starts preschool, you will need a set routine at home too - to ensure you are able to get them ready in the morning without eternal chaos - in addition to having a set bedtime.
It’s so helpful if you can start introducing your child to not only the concept of routines but some of the routines that will be required at preschool.
Some important routines to start with are: eating at the table, washing our hands before eating and addressing toileting needs.
6. Go on Small Outings
Go on small trips on the bus or train with your child. Use this time together to expose them to different experiences with a variety of people. It has the added benefit of building up their immunity before joining preschool!
7. Develop Self-Help Skills
Once attending preschool, you will be surprised at how much independence your little one develops - and how quickly. To help prepare them, allow them some independence at home through teaching self-help skills.
For example, your child should be able to dress themselves and blow their own nose.
8. Make and Accept Changes
As with everyone, children have different levels of tolerance for accepting change. Change can be extremely positive and it helps if you set this frame of mind at home.
To help your children build this resilience you can change things in your home; for example, rearrange the furniture in the toy room.
9. Ensure Long Hair is Tied Back
This is a really simple one, but your child will be required to have their long hair tied back at preschool due to health and safety concerns. If your child is not used to this, please help them adjust before they commence preschool.
10. Get Your Child to Help Tidy Up and Pack Away at Home
Once you start this you’ll be left wondering why you didn’t try it sooner. Children really do like to be helpful - let them!
Teach your child that they need to be responsible for their own possessions and that they are expected to leave things as they find them. Your child will be helping tidy up and pack away at preschool and it really supports us if you reinforce this expectation at home.
11. Enhance their Confidence and Language Ability
Ensure your child is taking every opportunity to expand their lexicon and getting better at expressing themselves and communicating what they would like to do or have, as well as asking questions - asking questions is a fantastic way for them to learn and reinforce an inquisitive nature.
12. Reinforce Enjoyment of the Simple Things
Give your child time to enjoy him or herself without expensive toys. For example, a box can be a great plaything that will assist your child to expand their imagination, rather than simply a video game.
Preschool is a time of tremendous growth. With just a little preparation, you can make this transition a confidence-building experience for both you and your child.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this article as much as I loved writing it for you. I hope you’ve also got a ton of value from it too.
I appreciate you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to read this material. If you liked what you read and these ideas make sense to you, then why not follow the footsteps of my other successful students.
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