For your little guy, starting preschool will be his first step towards many years of learning and education. It’s possible you can set the tone for the rest of his journey through knowledge at this precise point. Hopefully, you’ll set the right tone so that learning will be an exciting and powerful tool for him and not a dreaded time in his life.
Just as you would test drive a new car, or carefully check out a new home before buying it, so too should you allow your youngster to check out the preschool he will be spending his days at so it is somewhat familiar to him when he starts.
This can be arranged by chatting to the preschool headmistress or headmaster.
But do you actually know if he is really ready for the big plunge or not? Obviously age plays an important role but there are other key factors, too. Preparation is the first.
Preparing your youngster for preschool
Make sure you talk as much as possible about preschool in general and his going there. Give him a taster as to what things he will be learning and experiencing. Tell him about the games that will be played, his own special lunch box, the songs he will learn and all the new friends he will meet who will also be there for the first time, just like him. Role-play little scenes of his arriving at school and in the classroom with him.
Anxiety virtually always plays a role with children starting preschool for the first time, but some kids just handle it more easily. This is why preparing him is so important. He must be completely reassured that he will be safe at school and that every day you or the allocated person will fetch him and bring him home.
It certainly wouldn’t be a bad idea to even do a couple of morning trial runs as far as getting ready and driving to the school.
Getting some books from the library about starting preschool will also help him.
Preschool is not daycare
Remember that preschool is not a day-care centre. Preschool teachers are there to give children the grounding they need to be ready for big school, not change nappies and dress the kids! Some preschools demand that their children are potty- trained, or at least well on their way to being so. Preschoolers should also have some knowledge of self-care such as putting on their shoes and their sweaters, knowing how to zip up their pants, and washing their hands.
Although preschool is not an army camp, your preschooler will need to be able to follow some basic instructions such as to walk in a line, clean up their tables, wash their hands and eat their food unaided.
For children who have been in day-care, this transition to preschool is usually pretty smooth, but for a child who has stayed home with one parent, separation anxiety can creep in. This is the time when you need to eradicate any possibilities of separation anxiety and you can do this by leaving him with a sitter for regular, short periods of time. He will then learn to say goodbye to you and yet feel reassured that you will return.
So, to recap, ask yourself these vital questions:
- Is your child ready to be separated from his parent or caregiver?
- Is he ready to cope with a more structured routine than the one he already has?
- Is he excited about attending preschool or are you sensing anxiety or fear in him?
- Does the preschool you have chosen cater for his needs and talents?
- Can he follow instructions without any drama?
Make his experience of school fun from day one. This could just be the key to him excelling as he climbs the ladder of knowledge!