How to Prepare Your Toddler for Preschool

Starting preschool marks a new chapter in your child’s life, one that both of you may be a little nervous about. While it is completely normal to experience a mix of emotions ranging from excitement to worry, nursery education lays the foundations for your child’s educational journey, on which they will learn new skills, gain their independence and make some great new friends. 

As a private preschool in Devon, we understand how challenging this change can be. To ensure this key transition is as smooth as possible, we’ve put together some useful tips to help you prepare your toddler for preschool.

Explore the Idea of Preschool Through Play 

The concept of preschool may be new to your child, one which they might not fully understand. Consequently, exploring the notion of preschool through play is a great way to ensure they comprehend what preschool is as well as what will be happening when their first day arrives. 

Begin by pretending to go school with your child, packing up their belongings in their backpack and teaching them how to remove their coat and hang up their bag. Then, take turns in pretending to be the teacher and the pupil, carrying out some different activities that may occur throughout your child’s day such as reading, singing and colouring. 

Finally, teach your child some simple social skills to help them gain confidence with interaction; this may include making friends, putting their hand up to ask a question, taking turns when talking and asking for help from an adult.

Practise Separation

By gradually experiencing short periods of separation in a familiar and safe environment, toddlers learn that temporary distance is normal and manageable. This process allows them to build trust in their caregivers and themselves, knowing that reunions will happen after each separation. 

As a result, when they start preschool, they are better equipped to handle the new social and emotional challenges independently. The practice of separation empowers toddlers to adapt more easily to the preschool setting, promoting a smoother transition and fostering a sense of self-assurance and autonomy that paves the way for a positive and successful early schooling experience.

Read Preschool-orientated Books

There are a variety of children’s books about preschool that will be available to purchase or borrow from your local public library. To help get your child used to the idea of preschool, consider reading some of these books with them before their first term begins. 

Not only will this be an enjoyable way to convey the notion of preschool to your child, but it will also allow them to identify with characters in these books which are also attending preschool, hopefully making them feel less apprehensive about their new experience.

Practise Self-help Skills

Throughout their school life, your child will gradually become more independent. In their early years, helping them feel less reliant on you can significantly improve their confidence, especially when it comes to doing things for themselves while they are at preschool. 

As such, practising some small but simple self-help skills like washing their hands, packing up their lunchbox or putting on coats, socks and shoes can increase your child’s self-assurance, meaning they can enjoy their short time away from you without worrying about having to do things on their own. 

To make this process of learning more enjoyable, turn these tasks into games; race your child to see who can put their coat on first or ask them to help pack away lunch items on a picnic outing.

Talk Through Their Feelings

Your child is bound to have conflicted emotions about starting preschool; while they may be excited to make new friends, they may also be nervous about not being in your company. To help your child feel more relaxed, listen to what they have to say and try to acknowledge any concerns that they may have, no matter how big or small. 

Be reassuring where you can and use your child’s behavioural signals to establish particular emotions. For example, your child may be quieter or clingier in the period leading up to starting preschool, but with nurturing and support, their behaviour will soon change once they become familiar with their new experience.

Visit the Preschool

Before the term starts, arrange a visit to your child’s new preschool and explore the areas in which they will spend their days. 

Take a tour of their classroom or have a run around the playground together and, if possible, introduce your child to their new teacher, so they know who will be looking after them in your absence. 

Spending time at their preschool will serve to lessen your child’s anxieties about their new surroundings as well as help you to establish the environment in which they will be in.

Embrace Transition Comforters

Transition comforters, such as a favourite toy or blanket, play a crucial role in preparing toddlers for preschool as they provide them with a sense of familiarity and security during this period of change. 

These comfort objects serve as a source of reassurance, acting as a constant companion in the unfamiliar preschool environment. When children are faced with new surroundings, separation from their parents, and interactions with strangers, having their cherished comforter by their side can help ease their anxiety. 

The comforting presence of these objects allows toddlers to gradually adapt to the changes and build confidence, fostering a positive association with preschool and creating a smooth path for their early educational journey.

Here at our private preschool, we welcome visits to our Little Hares toddler group from toddlers and parents who will be joining our Nursery in the near future. 

In addition, St Peter’s Preparatory School’s Nursery offers a Stay & Play session in the afternoon before the first day of term for the new children who will be starting Nursery that term with their parents, so that they can get used to the Nursery classroom and meet the Nursery teaching staff.

Beginning preschool is a milestone for toddlers and parents; by following these tips and keeping your preparation efforts as low-key as possible, not only will your child feel more relaxed when it comes to starting preschool but hopefully, you will too!  

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