Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Positive Preschool Preparation

In the past month you all have sent several emails regarding preschool preparation, I am so sorry it took me so long to respond with a post! I could go one for days about this, really I could. However I thought I would start with one simple post and elaborate as September grows near.

We know preschool offers many benefits. It can be a great place for children to interact with their peers and learn valuable life lessons. However going to preschool does come with its fair share of mixed emotions for parents and children. For a child, entering a new environment can be both exciting and stressful. So it is important to prepare your child for this new adventure in a positive manner.

Perhaps the most critical piece of positive preparation is that the more comfortable you are about your decision, the fewer problems you and your little one will encounter. While you should acknowledge this important step your child is taking and provide support, too much emphasis on the change could make any anxiety worse. Young children pick up on their parents' nonverbal cues. When you feel guilty or worried about leaving your child at school, your child will sense it. The more calm and assured you are about your choice to send your child to preschool, the more confident your child will be.

With that said ~ Here are some things you can get started on this summer to help the transition go smoothly!

Plan a variety of social activities ~ Let’s face it; preschoolers can have a great deal of trouble navigating through social situations. If your child hasn't spent much time in a group with other children, activities such as sharing, taking turns, and playing cooperatively can be even more difficult. Help your child get used to being part of a group by arranging play dates with one or two peers and/or enrolling them in a music or tumbling class.

Read to your child every day ~ You should be doing this anyway! However in all preschool classes there is a story time or read aloud. Setting aside at least 15 minutes a day for a story time with Mommy will make this a familiar ritual when school begins. Get your child involved as much as you can during a read aloud. Stop midway through a reading and ask what will happen next, or how they think the story will end. When your child starts remembering phrases from a book, ask them to "read" with you. You should also hit up your local library and sit in on a weekly story hour!

Give your child a sense of what to expect ~ Resist the temptation to say things like "There's nothing to be afraid of!" Never belittle your child's fears or concerns. Instead calm their fears with informative dialogue. Talk to your child about what to expect when they get to school, where they will be going, what they will be doing, and maybe even who will be in class with them. Be sure to let your child know the day will include activities they enjoy! For example “You will be painting with Miss Lucille today!”

Practice and get used to separation ~ This can be especially challenging for some! Yet it is crucial to practice separation. Leave your child with a trusted caregiver once or twice a week for an hour or two. Practice makes perfect, for you both!! You'll be surprised how much easier it gets!

Come up with a good-bye ritual ~ Routine and consistency are key so have fun with your goodbyes and create a special parting ritual.  Try doing a special handshake or saying a silly phrase each time you part. Though you might be tempted to sneak out without an official “goodbye” don’t!! Your munchkin will only be more distressed when they realize you're gone. Don't drag it out or let on that you might be upset. Keep in mind preschool teachers deal with this kind of thing every single day, they will handle it! Also most schools have a "limit" on how long they will allow a child to be upset before they call you. It's usually about fifteen minutes to a half hour. Ask your child's teacher what their policy is if your child is extremely stressed after drop off.

Practice listening skills ~ With a room full of three year olds it is critical to keep things moving, so your child will need those "listening ears." You can help your child practice their listening skills in a variety of ways. Play games that require your child to listen to directions, solve problems, and take turns. For instance, play "I Spy" in the car or on walks around your neighborhood. Keep in mind that throughout the day at preschool, children must follow directions that involve more than one step. Prepare for this by asking your child to do a series of things at once, such as take their shoes off and put them in the closet. Or put their cars away in the blue box and their animals away in the green box. You get the idea...

Coordinate Nap Schedules ~ If your child is taking naps every day, it's a good idea to get them on a schedule that will not interfere with school. If your child is napping at noon and preschool pick up is at noon – that will prove to be a challenge. Consider bumping nap time back a bit if needed prior to the start of the school year.

FOOD ~ I cannot stress this enough…. Make sure your child eats a good breakfast before you send them off. Trust me. I could always tell which children in my class had time to eat and who was rushed into my classroom that morning. I’ll let you guess who was ready to take on the day….

Ask Questions ~ If you have questions regarding your child’s classroom, teachers, schedule, etc. ASK! The more you know about what to expect the more confident you will be, and again YOU set the stage for how this transition will go.

As I mentioned I could go on and on and on about this! Stay tuned and in the coming months I will be sure to post more tips and tricks on how to get your little one ready for preschool.

Happy Playing & Exploring!!

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