How to Prepare Your Child for Preschool
Your child will attend preschool this autumn. You want to prepare him so that the transition into preschool is as easy as possible for him. Here are some tips to accomplish that goal.
1. Let your child know what to expect. Speak with him about preschool: what it is, where it is, what people he will interact with there, what activities he may participate in, what his typical day may be like, why preschool is helpful for him, etc. Take him to the daycare: let him see the location, introduce him to the people, help him create a clearer image in his mind about what his daycare experience will be like.
2. Invite his feedback on attending preschool. What does he think about going to preschool this autumn? What does he feel about going to preschool this autumn? Respond to any questions or concerns that he may have. Never tell him that his feelings of fear or apprehension are invalid; instead, validate his feelings while also offering your own positive outlook. For example, you may say, “Yes, I know that it’s scary to try something new. I was scared when I started preschool too, but it didn’t take long before I met some new friends there and started having lots of fun in preschool. I think you too will really like preschool once you give it a try. Give it a month, and if you don’t like it after that month, we can talk about doing something different for you then. Ok?”
3. Ensure that your child knows basic self-care techniques. Can he tie his own shoes, zip and unzip his own coat, etc.? Is he potty trained?
4. Host some larger groups of children in a location that does not “belong” to any of the children. For example, take your child and some of his friends on a nature hike for the afternoon. Group activities such as this will help your child feel more comfortable interacting with groups of his peers. It will (hopefully) also teach him how to relate to groups of his peers (i.e., the art of compromise, how to share and take turns, when to submit to the will of the group and when to stand opposed to it, etc.). It is helpful to include in these groups some of the children in the preschool that your child will be attending. Through this inclusion, your child will know that he has established friendships awaiting him in preschool.
5. Engage your child in activities that require him to sit still for periods of time. As he grows comfortable with this, add listening skills to the experience. For example, ask him to sit on the living room sofa while you read a book to him. When the book is done, ask him questions about what you read. Why do you think the monkey took John’s hat? What was so special about that hat? Is it ever ok to take things that belong to others? Why do you think John forgave the monkey?
6. Work with him to help him master the alphabet, counting, colors, and shapes. Read a book to him every evening at bedtime. (Note: you can even read to him a book about preschool.) Hold up various household objects and ask him to identify the color, shape, or quantity of the object(s) held. Sing the alphabet song together. Helping your child master these basics will ensure that he does not feel academically behind the rest of the children in preschool.
7. Encourage your child’s artistic nature. Crayons and coloring books are a good start. Markers, finger paints, chalk, colored pencils, clay, and other items are excellent additions to round out his early artistic experience. Always find something to praise in his work. For example, “I really like your choice of colors!” Preschool children often spend time in artistic endeavors; the more familiar and comfortable he is with these, the more he will embrace the activities in preschool.
8. Take your child shopping for the preschool supplies he needs. Let him choose his own backpack and other supplies. Make nametags together and put a nametag on each preschool supply so that every item is clearly marked as your child’s. (Note: even clothing that will need to be removed during preschool, such as coats and galoshes, must be tagged.)
9. Practice separation. For example, hire a babysitter to watch your child in her home rather than yours. Help your child understand that you can’t always be with him, but being apart is only temporary. You will be back together again soon . . . and he may have great fun while you are apart.
10. With your child, plan a celebration of his big day, his first day of preschool. If he would like to celebrate by being taken out for pizza, then take him out for pizza when you pick him up from preschool on that first day. Make a big fuss over his big day. You may say, “You are getting SO BIG! I can’t believe you are already in preschool! I am so very proud of you!” (Note: because he helped plan his celebration, it gives him a sense of control over his circumstances and it also gives him something to look forward to on a day that may otherwise fill him with trepidation.)
By following these tips, you can ease your child’s transition into preschool.