Ensure a positive start to playschool

The first day of playschool is often as traumatic for the parents as it is for the child – and moms and dads don’t have new friends and toys to distract them! As difficult as they can be, hellos and goodbyes are an important life lesson for your child, teaching them how to separate from and reunite with important people in their lives.

“Life is a series of hellos and goodbyes,” someone once said, and for many children, the first day of playschool is one of their earliest experiences of trying to understand what this really means.

According to The Creative Curriculum for Infants & Toddlers, “Learning to say hello and goodbye to people we love is a process, not a goal to be achieved in the first week or month, or even year of your child’s school life.”

In fact, hellos and goodbyes will be a major part of your child’s life, today and always. “Teaching your child about hellos and goodbyes from an early age will not only ease their anxiety on the first day of playschool, but prepare them for a lifetime of building and maintaining long-term relationships,” says Liz Senior, Occupational Therapist and Founder of Clamber Club.

No matter how much practice we’ve had, saying goodbye can be very upsetting and stir up deep feelings. “These feelings, combined with your child’s stage of development and other factors such as being hungry or tired, can make saying hello or goodbye difficult at times,” notes The Creative Curriculum for Infants & Toddlers.

“For some children, the transition from leaving mom and dad and going to school can be quite overwhelming, and for others, it’s a lot easier and they happily wave goodbye,” says Michelle Mendonça, Klerksdorp franchisee of Clamber Club Toddlers and Playschool.

She offers these tips to help prepare your child for playschool:

Practise separation: Leave your child with others for short periods of time so they can get used to being apart from you. They soon learn that you will return.

Familiar surroundings: Try to enrol your child in a school where they already know some of the other children.

Get to know the teacher: Take your child to meet their new teacher, explore the school and play in the playground.

Reassurance: Reassure your child that it is okay to be scared, but promise them that you will be there to pick them up in a few hours. Explain that the teacher will always be available should they need to ask for help.

Be positive: Always speak about school in a positive manner. Never use school or the teacher as a threat or punishment.

Personalised suitcase and lunchbox: Help them get excited by letting them choose their own suitcase. Fill their lunchbox with food you know they like. Make sure that everything they need is in their bag – an extra set of clothes, their special blankie or toy, pacifier, etc.

Create a hello and goodbye ritual: This may be as simple as walking to the door with your child or giving them a giant hug before you leave. Having a ritual offers you both the comfort of knowing what to do.

Quick goodbyes: Give them a quick hug, tell them you love them, and then leave them in the hands of their new loving teacher. Even if there are tears, don’t linger, it just makes it more difficult for parent, child and teacher.

“It is not what you do for your children, but what you have taught them to do for themselves, that will make them successful human beings.” – Ann Landers.

Reference: The Creative Curriculum for Infants & Toddlers by Amy Laura Dombro, Laura J. Colker, and Diane Trister Dodge.

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