Preparing for Preschool

What’s the goal of preschool?

Here at Angels By Day, we believe that the goals of early childhood education include:

  1. Physical and emotional development
  2. Social development
  3. Language and literacy development
  4. Cognitive skill development

 How do you know your child is ready for preschool?

As a parent, no one other than you will know when your child is ready for nursery. However, there are some signs that help, including:

  • Your child can follow simple directions.
  • They’re able to be independent and spend short periods of time away from you.
  • They focus on a task.
  • They want, and like, to play with other children.
  • They have basic self-care skills.
  • They’re potty trained.

How to choose a preschool

Take your child along with you when viewing preschools, as that will help with your decision. Does your child wander off, explore the room and feel secure without you by their side? Or do they feel uncomfortable and stuck to your leg? Ask questions such as “what planning and goals do you set for the children?” “What is the difference between the preschool and the toddler room?” “Do they have to be toilet trained?” “Do they learn to read and write”? “How do you manage negative behaviour?” “How much time do they play outdoors?” 

Read books about preschool and tell your child what they should expect on their first pre-visit

As with many aspects of life, children can learn important life lessons from books – and this includes going to nursery. There are many children’s books available about going to school, and these can certainly help show the benefit to your child (and get them excited) before school starts. It’s important to talk about the story afterwards, discuss how the characters are feeling, and understand how your child feels about starting preschool.

Saying goodbye: Keep your tone upbeat

Children are very good at picking up on an adult’s emotions – especially trusted adults in their lives – so keeping goodbyes upbeat, positive, and as if it’s the norm will reassure your child. Having to say bye-bye to Mummy or Daddy is often the most challenging part of starting preschool. The image of your kid clinging to you, crying, and refusing to enter the classroom may be among your worst first-day fears too. If you’re a working parent, your child has already adjusted to spending some time apart from you. If not, arrange to have them stay with a babysitter or another family member while you go out for a couple of hours. “These short separations enforce the message that you’ll always come back at the end of the day,” says Dr. Berman.

Plan to stay a little while

Not leaving right away on the first day of preschool can make all the difference and undoubtedly helps the transition. Exploring the classroom, meeting other children and playing with a few toys together can make your child feel comfortable and at ease. If your child is having a harder time engaging once you leave, we’d suggest asking a teacher to stay as you say goodbye. This way, when you leave, they can turn to another caring adult for support.

Resist the Rescue

Hearing your child cry or become uncomfortable as you leave can be distressing. While we know it’s difficult, you should try to avoid running back to the classroom should your child start to cry or yell. Starting preschool is a big change, and it’s completely normal for a child to feel nervous, sad, and a little scared. However, running back sets a precedent that, for each drop-off, all it takes is some emotion, and they’ll be able to summon you back! It’ll make it difficult for your child to adapt in the long term. Please rest assured; teachers and staff are well trained and have a wealth of experience helping families and children love preschool. Whilst it may be a shock to the system at first, your child will get used to the routine. We’d suggest waiting outside and out of sight instead, listening intently for them to calm down, giving you peace of mind, and perhaps calling up throughout the day to check in.

Notice nonverbal messages

Your 3-year-old may be a chatterbox, but they may still struggle with expressing why they’re emotional or what they are feeling. It’s totally normal for children of a young age to act out, shy away and even become a bit aggressive. You may even find your 3-year-old, who is developing, starts taking ‘backward steps’ as a reaction to a big life event – for example, a fully potty-trained child may even start having accidents again. These incidents naturally cause frustration, but it’s important that you don’t dwell on or become too concerned. In fact, letting your child play this out often leads to them returning to their “big kid” selves much sooner. Remember, your child is facing — and managing — a big life event on their own. They’ll need more support, nurturing, and patience from you while they make this transition.

Teachers work with children on respecting others, working together, and building social skills, language skills, and self-control through play. Children will learn basic life skills during play, so ensure you choose a nursery environment with lots of play opportunities. 

How to prepare your child for preschool

  • Encourage independence, e.g., putting their own shoes on and off, placing their coat on, and allowing your child to make their own decisions.
  • Manage their self-care needs – allow them to wash their own hands, get a tissue when needed, throw it away, and use cutlery appropriately. 
  • Give your child a task to complete, allowing them to gain concentration skills and self-esteem.
  • Listening and attention games at home or in the garden, e.g., ‘Simon says.’
  • I spy to hear sounds, use lots of languages, and introduce new vocabulary.
  • Allow them to play in the park with you sat back but at a safe distance; this will encourage social skills, turn-taking and build confidence without you.
  • Support them to manage their own feelings and behaviour.
  • Show your child how to hold a pencil correctly and do mark making together. 

The most important thing you can do to prepare your child for preschool is something you are probably already doing; forming a strong and loving connection at home.

Tips on how to toilet train your child from the NHS – How to potty train.

At Angels by Day, we welcome children from 6 weeks to 5 years. Take a look at our nursery for one-year-olds, younger toddlers or for four-year-olds to find out more!

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