How can we as parents make our child’s big transition to preschool easier?

As parents, you are probably rather anxious with lots of conflicting emotions about your child starting preschool. You cannot believe that it’s time for your little one to venture out into the big wide world, without you. How will they handle being separated from you and deal with things that are unfamiliar?

“As parents there are a lot that you can do to ensure that your child is prepared for their big day,” says preschool teacher and Clamber Club franchisee Beverly Bouton. “Children do pick up on your emotions so try and make your efforts as low-key as possible. If you make a big deal out of this milestone, your child could end up more anxious and worried about starting at their new school,” adds Beverly.

Here are Beverly’s top tips to make the preschool transition easier:

Play games with your child. Take on various roles, be the teacher, mother and the child, and act out different emotions. Introduce new words and expressions. Reassure your child that preschool is a place where they can learn, make new friends and have lots of fun.

Ensure that you practice independence and self-care skills with your child. These skills include toilet training, nose wiping, enabling them to pull their shorts/trousers up and down, unzipping their bag, sitting in a “criss-cross legs” position on the carpet, allowing them to put their toys away and including them in choosing what clothing to lay out for the next day.

Read books together, with lots of pictures about preschool.  Discuss the story with your child, talk about feelings and emotions and ask them how they are feeling.

Attend the Open Day or Orientation Day with your child. Allow your child to spend time playing on the playground, sitting inside the classroom and making use of the toilets that they will be using at school. This will help increase your child’s confidence and they will feel more comfortable with their new adventure.

Take a photograph of your child with the teacher. This will allow you to show your child the photo at home so they can familiarise themselves with their new teacher. Include photographs of the classroom and playground areas.

Talk about your child’s emotions. Most 3 year olds can talk but a lot of them will find it difficult verbalising their feelings and emotions and that they are worried about leaving you. Parents need to help verbalise their child’s feelings and tell them that it’s okay to be feeling a little scared, sad or worried. Explain that we all feel a little afraid of something new.

If your child is concerned about missing you and how they will cope, make a book following a daily sequence of events. Your child will understand what happens each day when it’s all put into a time frame with pictures or photographs. Talk about the morning routine so that they will understand.

  1. Wake up and brush teeth
  2. Get dressed
  3. Eat breakfast
  4. Drive to school
  5. Greet the teacher
  6. Play in the classroom/outside
  7. Snack time at school
  8. Songs and story
  9. Mom collects you after story and rest
  10. Have lunch at home …………..

2 weeks before Preschool starts:

  • Purchase a school bag together with your child and allow him/her to choose it themselves. Emphasize that he is a “big boy/girl” now.
  • Label all their items and show them where their name is so that they can recognise their clothing.
  • Ensure that you start a good bedtime routine – preschool children do need between 10 -12 hours sleep each night to cope with their day at school.
  • Start teaching your child good manners so that your child understands that greeting others and saying please and thank you is important.
  • Teach your child their full name, surname, their age and gender.

The night before:

  • Ask your child to help you choose an outfit to wear to school (weather appropriate clothing) and to help pack their school bag (spare clothing etc.)
  • Let your child choose which book you can read together.
  • Answer and talk about any questions that your child may ask. Keep the evening relaxed and low key!

On the first day before school:

  • Ensure that you wake up earlier, so you and your child don’t spend the morning rushing around, getting flustered and impatient.
  • Wake up with a happy face and sit down and eat breakfast together and casually chat about their day’s routine.
  • If your child is bringing a snack/lunch, select one or two of their favourite foods to take.
  • If allowed, let your child choose their favourite object, like a fluffy toy or blanket that they can take into their bag. Having some familiarity will help your child to adjust better.

Arrival at school:

  • For the first morning, spend about 15 – 20 minutes with your child, exploring the playground and classroom and playing with some toys together.
  • Allow your child to spend some time with the teacher while you are still there. When you can see that your child is happy and relaxed, that is the time to leave. If they are battling to settle, ask the teacher to sit with your child. Your goal is to let the teacher take over.
  • Never sneak out or leave without saying goodbye as your child will feel insecure and lose trust in you. Goodbye routines are very important, and they help the child to understand and prepare for what will happen next. Make sure that you leave with a happy face and reassure your child that all will be fine and that you will be back to collect them after story time
  • If your child is really upset and struggling, you can leave a little heart in their bag or give them a kiss on their palm to “hold” during the day.
  • If you hear that your child is still crying, as upsetting as it may sound, try not to come back as this will send a message to your child that they can only cope if you are there. Remember that teachers do have lots of experience coping with upset children and their families.
  • Remember that it can take up to 6 weeks for your child to adjust and settle, so don’t panic – preschool teachers and their assistants know what to do!