The first day of preschool is a big step for both child and parent alike. It not only marks the beginning of a new school year, but also a new phase of life. Previously latent learning gives way to active learning. It’s important for your child to understand that this new stage of life is a good thing, and that is best accomplished by taking the time to appropriately prepare him or her for the first day of preschool.
Establish a Schedule
A reliable routine will give your toddler comfort. It’s easy for the long summer days to create more chaotic schedules of bedtimes, mealtimes, and so forth. The quick change to a regimented school day can feel abrupt and leave your toddler anxious.
To avoid this, prepare your toddler for the first day of preschool by establishing a routine at home, especially in the mornings and evenings. Set a wake-up time similar to what it would be during the school year. Have breakfast and dinner at the same time every day. In the evening, enforce a “school night” bedtime. Provide your child with activities to complete during the day. Establishing a routine helps children learn about the concept of time and the order of things.
There’s no need to start this routine too early in the summer – about two weeks before the first day of preschool should do the trick. Your toddler has plenty of time to acclimate to the schedule, and they will come to rely on it.
Encourage Daily Learning
To prepare for the active learning environment of preschool, give your toddler a head start by encouraging daily learning from life’s teachable moments. This practice can take place throughout the school year and into summer as well. You can explain to your child about why summer days are hot, why dogs chase squirrels, why the leaves begin to change color, and so on.
Help your child develop their motor skills by asking them to draw you a picture, or cut shapes out of construction paper. This will help them learn how to handle crayons and scissors, developing the muscles in their hand for later on when writing, molding, and cutting become more consistent.
Encourage your toddler to be polite and friendly, and then ask them how it makes them feel when people are polite and friendly back to them. Teach them about cause-and-effect relationships. “You drew a picture for your father. The picture makes your father happy. How does it make you feel to make your father happy?” Helping your child to establish a two-way relationship with the world will develop their perception skills.
Read Together…A Lot!
Reading to a child daily is one of the most important things a parent can do. An understanding of language is crucial to any child’s development. It helps toddlers not only understand but also effectively communicate their own thoughts and emotions. Reading expands vocabulary and creates a better understanding of written words. It also encourages your child to use his or her imagination to mentally visualize the pictures the words create.
Visit the Preschool Ahead of Time
Most preschools are more than willing to have parents come with their children to visit the school. Some even encourage it! By visiting before the first day of preschool, toddlers will be able to familiarize themselves with the space. Walk them around and explain to them what will happen when they are there. “This is where you’ll meet your teacher.” “During recess, you’ll play on this playground.” “Here is where you’ll have story time.” This gives your child an idea of what to expect, and it won’t seem so unfamiliar and daunting when he or she is there without you.
Remain Low Key About the First Day of Preschool
Most of all, it’s important not to stress the first day too much to your child. Remain calm in your approach, and always associate the idea of preschool with positivity. Emphasize how much fun your child will have. Don’t make too big a deal about the event, or your child may begin to feel anxiety and stress rather than anticipation and excitement.
Watch Out for Separation Anxiety
When the first day of preschool finally arrives, talk to your toddler about how they feel. A little anxiety is completely normal, and you can tell them so. Gently reassure them that they will have a lot of fun, and remind them that you will see them at the end of the day and they can tell you all about it.
As you prepare to drop them off, explain to them how the day will go so they will know what to expect. Allow a little extra time for the drop off on the first day, so that you don’t have to rush off. That being said, don’t linger. If your child senses you’re anxious or upset, it will make the goodbye harder for the both of you.
Resist the urge to go back if you hear your child crying. The time apart may be new and difficult, but your child will adjust as they get used to the routine. Returning to comfort your child only reinforces the idea that if they cry, you will stay with them. Remember that teachers likely have had plenty of experience with this situation. They will know how to put your child at ease.
Preparing for the first day of preschool doesn’t have to be a big ordeal. It’s all about adjusting to new routines. Establishing opportunities for learning early on will help children adjust to the active learning that takes place in preschool.
Home Away From Home Academy was established to promote the growth of children through their earliest and most formative years of their development. If you have further questions about your child’s first day of preschool, please view our Welcome Packet or contact us today!