Starting preschool marks a new chapter in your child’s life, one that both of you may be a little nervous about. However, while it is completely normal to experience a mix of emotions ranging from excitement to sadness, preschool will lay the foundations for your child’s educational journey, on which they will learn new skills, gain their independence and make some great new friends. To ensure this special transition is as smooth as possible, we’ve put together some fun but 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 putting their hand up to ask a question, taking turns when talking and asking for help from an adult.
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 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. However, 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 being deterred by avoidable issues. 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.
Here at our private preschool, we welcome visits to our weekly Stay & Play toddler group from toddlers and parents who will be joining our Nursery in the near future. In addition, we also organise a taster day for prospective pupils before they join our nursery classes. A mutually convenient date is chosen with parents and their child spends either the morning or the day at St Peter’s. Our Head of Pre-prep meets with parents to provide feedback before they collect their child from the taster day.
Beginning preschool is a milestone for toddlers and parents; however, 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!