How to Prepare Your Child for Preschool?
Starting preschool can be an exciting yet challenging transition for young children and their families. As your child’s first school experience, it plays a valuable role in developing their social, emotional, physical, and early academic skills. With some planning and preparation, you can help make your child’s introduction to preschool smooth and positive, setting them up for future success. So, how to prepare your child for preschool? This article explores tips on managing expectations, easing separation anxiety, choosing a quality nursery, establishing routines, etc.
Managing Expectations Around Preschool
Entering an unfamiliar environment and spending extended time away from parents for the first time understandably provokes some uncertainty and anxiety in little ones. The more you as a parent understand typical behaviours and emotions children may experience when starting nursery, the better you can empathise with, reassure, and support them through this transition.
Some children may seem eager and curious about preschool in the weeks before the first day of nursery, while others grow quiet and clingy. Some may have sleep disturbances or show signs of worry, wanting constant reassurance that you won’t leave them. These are all developmentally normal reactions. Children tend to adjust at varying paces based on temperament. Manage your expectations around how quickly your child will settle in, not making assumptions based on other children. Some attach quickly, and others warm up gradually over weeks or months. Respond with sensitivity to prepare them.
Easing Separation Anxiety
Fretting when a parent drops them off is very common at the start. Children between the ages of two and three may become quite upset for the first few weeks. To ease this separation anxiety:
- Discuss what preschool entails beforehand, highlighting the fun activities and new friends. Books and role play can help illustrate the idea.
- Incorporate more independent play at home so they grow used to entertaining themselves without you close by.
- Aim for consistent preschool drop-off/pick-up times so they know what to expect.
- At drop-off, brief goodbyes with the reassurance you’ll be back later, then confidently hand them to the teacher – prolonged departures tend to increase distress.
- After leaving, avoid sneaking peeks through windows, which may unintentionally reinforce the separation.
Preschoolers generally adapt within a month as they build relationships and become familiar with the daily routines. If cries seem prolonged or a child does not adjust over time, talk to the nursery teacher about options.
The Preschool Environment
As you evaluate preschool options, look for:
Safe, Stimulating Space
- Colourful, organised classrooms tailored to preschoolers with puzzles, books, art, dramatic play areas and block/construction zones.
- Enclosed outdoor play areas with swings, playhouses, trikes and more
- Child-sized furnishings and accessible materials
Low Student-Teacher Ratios
- Individualised attention and interactions
- Adequate supervision ensures the safety
- The optimal goal is 1 teacher for every 6-8 children
Qualified, Caring Staff
- Teachers have some early childhood education/child development training
- Teachers genuinely enjoy working with this age group
- Utilise positive discipline and redirection
- Hands-on activities mixed with direct instruction
- Materials and topics spark curiosity and exploration
- The daily schedule provides structure but flexibility
For a preschool to best prepare children socially and academically for primary school, the environment and teaching approach should nurture development across all physical, emotional, social, language and cognitive domains.
How to Choose a Nursery
With many options, selecting the right nursery can feel overwhelming. Here are some helpful steps:
- Decide priorities – location, cost, hours, class size, curriculum focus, teachers’ credentials, etc. Rank these by importance.
- Get recommendations from other parents.
- Check nursery websites, then visit several in person. Observe interactions, cleanliness and engagement. Do children seem happy?
- Ask questions about teacher training/experience, disciplines used, daily structure, meals, policies around illnesses/vacations, etc.
- Have your child spend a short time in preschool to gauge comfort level.
- Enquire about settling in procedures and involvement for parents.
- Go with the nursery that best fits your child’s needs and temperament. While one option seems perfect for an outgoing child, it may not suit your shy kid.
- Continuity can be beneficial if your child attends primary school onsite after completing preschool. However, don’t assume nursery chains with multiple locations near different schools offer identical programming at each one. Curriculum and staff can vary.
Just as young children thrive on predictable routines at home, maintaining consistent daily preschool schedules provides comfort, stability, and an incredible learning journey. Typical components include:
- Greeting Time: Children are warmly welcomed into the classroom, often gathering in a circle for songs and conversations. This sets the tone for positive interactions.
- Choice Time/Centers: Teachers set up interest areas with various hands-on activities children can choose between, such as sensory tables, art materials, science experiments, maths games, etc. As they explore materials, children practise decision-making and self-direction.
- Circle Time/Large Group: Teachers introduce new concepts or read interactive stories. Children work on listening skills and learn to take turns. Themes align with activities offered during centres.
- Outside Time: Fresh air and exercise in an outdoor area develop gross and social motor skills. Children may dig in the sand, ride trunks, play games with peers, etc.
- Snack Time: Children sit together, practising manners and conversation while enjoying a nutritious bite. Teachers may incorporate maths topics using ingredients.
- Small Groups/One-on-One Time: Teachers guide students in particular skill-building games or activities based on individual developmental needs.
- Music and Movement: Upbeat songs get children dancing, hopping, marching, etc., to grow coordination. Rhythm instruments or props add to the fun.
- Rest/Quiet Time: Children put their heads down to recharge, listen to calming stories or do puzzles. Essential, given their activity level!
- Staggered Pick Up: After a full, busy day, children collect belongings and say goodbye to teachers, ready to go home with their backpacks full of art creations and stories to share with you about their day!
How to Make Friends at Nursery
Young children instinctively interact and form connections between playground adventures, art projects, and silly dance parties. But preschoolers may still need some coaching on positive social skills to initiate friendships, such as:
- Greeting others when arriving and departing daily
- Noticing what activities peers enjoy and asking to join in
- Taking turns, compromising and solving problems cooperatively
- Expressing themselves verbally rather than grabbing toys or pushing
- Including children who seem left out
- Using kind words and actions towards classmates and teachers
Role-play scenarios with your child to model friendly behaviours. Share your own positive and negative childhood social experiences and what you learned. Discuss how to handle conflict or tell a teacher if anyone acts unkindly. Build confidence by acknowledging their strengths and commenting on new social milestones you observe.
With preparation, understanding and consistent support, you and your child can feel at ease with the preschool transition. This valuable step kicks off their educational adventure! Tappy Toes Nursery welcomes you to join our caring community, helping your little learner thrive. Our experienced teachers nurture children’s natural curiosity through play-based learning, building social skills and independence. Please reach out with any questions about our child-centred approach as you consider options for this exciting new chapter!
We look forward to welcoming your family and being a partner in your child’s development!