What can you do to help your child prepare for the big day?
The first day of preschool can be as scary for parents as it is for the kids. Here are some tips to help you and your toddler scholar get ready for the big day this fall, courtesy of three early childhood experts: Hilary Holder, director of Admissions and Financial Aid at Baker Demonstration School in Wilmette; Judy Wahl, Junior Kindergarten teacher at Roycemore School in Evanston; and Cindy Ritchell, director at Willow Wood Preschool in Winnetka.
Arrange a visit to the school. Many schools offer parents the chance to visit the classroom and meet the teachers before the first day of school. If possible, get a babysitter for siblings so you can focus your undivided attention on your preschooler’s first visit to the new school.
Let your child have choices throughout the day. Give a choice between getting pajamas on first or brushing teeth. This plays over into the classroom when faced with choices. Should I play in the block center or at the art table?
Chat about diversity and how all families are different. Children are going to meet families that do things differently from you. There is no right way, just different. Give your child the tools to understand these differences.
Reassure your child that you’ll be there at the end of the day. The biggest concern that most young children have at this age is that Mommy or Daddy won’t come back, or won’t come back soon enough. Send in a family picture that reminds your child of home. Other children may benefit from bringing a transitional item, such as a favorite blanket or stuffed animal.
Be positive! Let your child know that there are many fun things to do and that she will have a wonderful time playing with the toys, being on the playground, etc. Always convey the message that school is a positive, inviting place. Let your child know that she can trust the teachers to meet all of her needs.
Practice independence. Let your child prepare his own snack or drink. Put cups in reach and provide a stepstool to the refrigerator for water or juice.
Finally, stay strong when it comes to goodbye. When you leave, keep a big smile on your face and reassure your child that she is going to have a great time at school. Whatever you do, don’t dissolve into tears yourself, as this will only add to your child’s anxieties. It’s important to leave when you say you are going to leave; if your child senses your reluctance to go, it can make the separation that much more difficult.