Starting preschool is an exciting time both for your child and for you as the parent. However, this adjustment period can be tough and scary for both of you, as well. Here are some approaches you may try during the next couple of months to prepare both yourself and your child for the wonderful step in your life together...
Some physical approaches to prepare for starting school:
- Doing some creative art together- Finger painting, drawing, coloring with crayons, molding clay... These activities all help developing both the visual and fine motor skills of your child. And these two skills are most needed for writing. Improving his competence may help his confidence. In addition, doing simple mazes and connect-the-dot pictures can also be pretty helpful for developing visual and fine motor skills of your child.
- Asking your child to do some simple tasks all by herself- Simple tasks like pouring a glass of milk/water, using a fork and a spoon, hanging her own jackets after taking them off... Some simple tasks that she will be expected to perform at school, and which also help learning coordination. Learning coordination also helps developing fine motor skills.
- Visiting the school at least once before the first day- Giving your child an opportunity to see his new classroom, where the bathrooms are, where the playground is, where the lunchroom is. And also visit the drop off and pick up area. You can explain at each of these spots what she will be doing during the day. Walking through the school will help your child get familiar with the physical environment. (If you can make this visit during an actual school day, your child will also get a chance to see the children on action)...
- Learning about the daily schedule at school- You can play school with your child at home. Practicing the daily schedule: waking up at the time that your child will wake up after she starts going to school; eating breakfast, snacks and lunch at the times she will be eating at school will help a smoother transition for her little body's biological clock.
- Including your child in the getting ready for school process- You can go on little shopping trips with your child. You can buy his arts supplies, lunch box, school outfits/uniforms together. Letting him make his own choices will help him internalize the idea of starting and going to school, as well.
Some mental approaches to prepare for starting school:
- Reading to your child at least for 15-20 minutes everyday- Children's vocabulary shows vast improvement when they are read everyday. A good vocabulary is proven to help learning to read and write.
- Practicing listening- Listening and following directions are fundamental at school. So helping your child be prepared would be very helpful. You can play listening games with her. You can ask her to close her eyes and listen to all the sounds around her. Or you can play 'Simon says' to encourage following directions. Another idea is to play school with her. You take turns in being the teacher and the student, and telling made up stories to each other.
Some emotional/social approaches to prepare for starting school:
- Talking to your kid about their new school- Prepare your child about what he would expect on the first day and on a common day at school by talking to him. Listen to any worries that he may have. Addressing all his fears, concerns or worries is utmost important. Help him calm all his worries and fears with information. You can read books and stories about starting school.
- Pointing out peers who already started school- Meet with other children who go to school already. By positively talking together with other children about their school experiences, you might help your child have a mental picture.
- Creating a good-bye ritual- To make the separation easier for your child and to ensure her that you'd be back to pick her up, you can create a special good-bye ritual. You may even want to start this ritual before starting the school. This could be a special or silly phrase you may use "Hey diddle diddle, I will be back with a fiddle" or a gesture like a high-five... Something special for you two... This will help enhance her feeling of attachment to you and help her feel more secure. But whatever you do, don't sneak out! This will only make your child more distressed.
- Practicing social skills- School is a social environment. So preparing your child socially will be very helpful. Your child will take turns, share toys, make choices, etc. Organizing play dates with other kids and moms will provide good opportunities to practice these skills.
- Having a positive outlook- Children are extra sensitive to their parents' feelings. If you have any worries and concerns about your child starting to school... this will directly affect your child's emotional state in a negative way. On the contrary, when you are upbeat and positive, your child will be relaxed. Only when she's relaxed, she will have a pleasant experience.