Going to school for the very first time can be a nerve-wrecking experience, particularly for preschoolers who have never been to school. Sometimes, routines, new faces, strange adults, unfamiliar environments can be very overwhelming. Separation anxiety is real, sometimes even more so for parents who have to leave their child in the hands of a stranger for the very first time. Fret not, we have helpful tips to help you prepare your child for preschool or kindergarten.
It is always good to be ready
Introduce the Topic of Preschool with a Book!
Books are a great way of encouraging literacy and setting the right tone for entering preschool. There are many great books about going to kindergarten, what to expect and how fun it will be! They are also great for starting conversations about preschool and pictures help to paint a picture of preschool.
Here are our recommendations:
- The Night Before Kindergarten by Natasha Wing
- Maisy Goes to Preschool: A Maisy First Experiences Book by Lucy Cousins
- First Day Jitters by Julie Danneber
- Miss Bindergarten Plans a Circus with Kindergarten, by Joseph Slate and Ashley Wolff
- Adventure Annie Goes to Kindergarten by Toni Buzzeo
- The Berenstain Bears Go to School by Stan and Jan Berenstain
- If You Ever Want to Bring an Alligator to School, Don’t by Elise Parsley
Visit the Preschool & Meet Friends and Teachers
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If you have chosen a preschool, it is time to get your child acquainted with it a month before starting school. Sometimes preschools hold orientation or a ‘Welcome Day’ for children to get to know their school, teachers and classmates better. It is always a good idea to attend a school tour so the environment is more familiar and less likely to be a “scary” place. This also gives the children a chance to experience the fun elements at school which are not available at home – toys, manipulatives, learning corners, playgrounds, water or sand play!
Practise Routines at Home and Encourage Independence – A Good Way to Prepare Your child For Preschool Days
To get children ready for preschool, it would be great to start them on a simple routine at home with a handy timetable so they can get used to preschool’s schedule. This might involve earlier bedtimes and waketimes as waking up early can be difficult for some kids. Establishing a routine would help prepare the child to be a “morning bird” depending on what time the session starts. Less grouchy children are a lot easier to handle at school drop-offs.
#protip You might want to write down a simple timetable for pre-schoolers with waketime, mealtimes, playtime, naptime and some independent play time. Some parents call independent play time a “Magic Mat time” when the child sits in a designated area and learns not to step out of the boundary or the “Magic Mat”. This fosters independent and safe play, encouraging the following of rules as well as learning about boundaries.
Learning to Say Goodbye
For parents and even caregivers, it can be really difficult to say goodbye to the child. Learn to make goodbyes short (as to reduce the agony for both parties) rather than prolonged sessions of emotional breakdowns or tantrums. This can be done through “rehearsal” or “practice sessions” for parents who usually stay home.
A trusted caregiver can babysit the child for one or two hours while the parent leaves the home and be out of sight for at least an hour. This helps the child ease into the routine of not seeing the parent for a short time, which likewise happens in preschool. Kindergartens usually have the first few days of school with shorter hours to help with the transition. However, the tears shed by some children could induce more crying from others too depending on the situation.
Hence, parents could reduce the anxiety of their children with practice goodbye sessions. Don’t forget to let the child know when you will be back and stick to that promise!
Buying Necessities & Packing Bags for Preschool
Involve the child as much as possible when preparing materials for preschool – items such as uniforms, school bag, shoes, socks, pencil cases, water bottles. Set these items aside specially for school – and that they are special for going to school. This gives the child a sense of responsibility and ownership, and reasons to look forward to going to school with a “special bag” and “special outfit”. All kids love to be like grown-ups. Hence the process of involving them in getting ready to get to a “big boy or big girl school” leaves most children feeling excited.
Giving much Reassurance, Incentivising & Encouragement
If your child feels anxious about school and experiences separation anxiety, don’t be worried. It is very normal to have a period of adjustment. It used to break my heart seeing my firstborn going on the school bus bawling his eyes out for the first week of school.
Hence, giving a lot of reassurance, hugs, extra treats during the period of adjusting to preschool is necessary. This helps to prepare your child for preschool by assuring him or her that it isn’t a period of abandonment but just part of growing up. Encouraging the child to remember that he or she will see you after school at a certain time also helps to allay their fears of being left alone or forgotten.
Some preschools take photos of the child during drop off, throughout the school day and these are photos you can talk about and hear about the child sharing more.
Getting in Touch with Teachers
As the preschool teachers will be the caregivers and educators in school, it is important to get to know them well and have a good communication system. Most schools adopt a system with communication books for teacher to write notes to parents and vice versa. Some schools use apps such as Class Dojo to help parents see how their child is doing in school.
Nothing beats a face-to-face chat about the progress of the child in school. Even a quick 3 minute chat during drop-off would help in little updates that could reduce your anxiety. This establishes rapport and trust in the educators which is necessary.
Special Dietary Requirements & Allergies
For children with special dietary requirements such as gluten-free, dairy-free needs, do alert the school as soon as possible before school starts. Some parents may choose to pack their own meals or lunchboxes if schools do not cater to special diets. Allergy requirements should also be stated upfront to prevent any unnecessary triggers in the environment.
You could also check beforehand if certain preschools have nut-free policies given the dangers of allergic reactions. Most schools have adopted a policy of nut-free meals in meal preparation and even in bring-your-own lunchbox policies.
Taking Photos of the First Day of Preschool
Don’t forget the “first day of school” Instagram photos! These keepsakes serve as precious memories. They also remind us how quickly the children grow. As the years go by, preschool years would seem like a long time ago.
Prepare Your Child for Preschool by insisting that it is Fun!
Thinking of how my younger son will graduate from preschool next year gets me teary-eyed. Preschool years will fly by and soon formal schooling years will begin. Don’t forget to cherish all the fun years before tests and assessments set in. Prepare your child for preschool with lots of positivity always helps, and they would look back at those years with much fondness.