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Transitioning to Preschool: 9 Ways to Help Your Child

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Updated on Jul 2, 2010

It seems like just yesterday that your child uttered his first words and took his first steps. Now he’s leaving babyhood behind and beginning another chapter in his life. Transitioning to preschool is a big deal. This major milestone can cause stress and anxiety for all involved. Thankfully, you can ease your child’s fears about starting preschool, and keep those butterflies in check with these tips.

  1. Talk it Out. Explain to your child in simple terms what he can expect when he goes to preschool. Tell him that he will be away from you for a little while, but you will return to pick him up. Build excitement about preschool by telling him about all the new playmates he’ll meet, the delicious snacks he’ll enjoy, and all the fun things he’ll learn.
  2. Social Prep Work. Knowing how to share, take turns and cooperate with other kids are not requirements for entering preschool. But possessing these skills will make the transition easier for a child. If your kid hasn’t had many opportunities to socialize with peers, you can help him learn the value of cooperative play by signing him up for a neighborhood play group or setting up regular playdates with his friends.
  3. Help Yourself. Kids in preschool should already have basic self-care skills mastered. Children’s Advocate suggests that parents encourage their kids to clean up, dress and feed themselves – even if the end results aren’t perfect. Parents should also work with their children to help them master their toilet skills prior to entering preschool.
  4. Oh Drama. Set up a pretend play area with a table, chair and rug. Use your child’s love of dramatic play to act out common preschool experiences such as circle time, story time and snack time. You can pretend to be the teacher while your child and his teddy bears act as students.
  5. Read All About It. Storybook characters are often relatable to children, so reading books about starting school can help kids get a better sense of what preschool is like. Appropriate books for preschoolers include: Time for School, Mouse! by Laura Numeroff (HarperCollins Publishers, 2008), Spot Loves School by Eric Hill (Penguin Group, 2008), D.W.’s Guide to Preschool by Marc Brown (Little, Brown and Company, 2006) and Corduroy Goes to School by Don Freeman (Penguin Group, 2002).
  6. Getting to Know You. Dropping your youngster off and leaving him in a strange place is not the best idea. Visit the preschool with your child at least two times so he can get acquainted with the teachers and the environment. You might arrange a day where you and your little one can spend at least 30-minutes inside of the classroom observing the daily happenings.
  7. Goodbye for Now. Saying goodbye is the hardest part of transitioning to preschool. To ease your child’s separation anxiety, come up with a creative way to say goodbye. You and your child can create a secret handshake or a cool goodbye rhyme. In addition to a special goodbye, give your child a picture of you to put in his pocket. When he needs comfort, he can pull the picture out and look at it.
  8. You Little Sneak. On your child’s first day of preschool, hang around for a few minutes and help him find an activity he enjoys. Once he’s engaged in the activity, say your special goodbye and head for the door. No matter how tempting, don’t sneak out. Once your child realizes you’re gone, he’ll be frantic. This will make him less trusting and clingier the next day.
  9. No Turning Back. If your child starts to cry when you drop him off at preschool, resist the urge to swoop in and rescue him. This won’t help; it will only make separating more difficult. Leaving your child in a classroom while he’s kicking and screaming isn’t easy. But “Going back will only encourage the outbursts to continue and possibly cause your child to lose confidence in his ability to stay in preschool without you” says preschool program director Angela Carlsbad.

Leaving the security of home and transitioning to preschool can be tough on a youngster. But teaching your child to be independent, giving him an idea of what to expect, and coming up with a special way to say goodbye can help ease him into preschool without much fuss.

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