Preparing for preschool? Whether your child is separating from you for the first time or they are used to other caregivers and teachers, the first day of school can be anxiety-producing for parents and kids alike! At Bubbles Academy, we’ve found that preparation, positive anticipation and even a little keepsake from home can be keys to a calm start to the new school year.
Here are 6 quick steps to get your little one off to school on the right foot:
(1) Communicate what to expect: Children love to hear and read through their favorite stories repeatedly. They will ask questions that you know you’ve already answered multiple times, but all this repetition is fun and comforting for them!
- When preparing for preschool, your child will benefit from hearing the “story” of his or her day — how he or she will get to school, who will be there and what to expect.
- Take a couple trial runs with morning routine and driving to your child’s school so they get used to seeing the welcoming entrance.
- If possible, join in an event or play date at the school prior to the first day of class. Reliving fun memories of the event together is a helpful way to continue the conversation about what your child will experience at school.
(2) Schedule: If a child has been used to having a very flexible playtime and meal schedule during the day, quick transitions may be a challenge at first.
- Contact your preschool to find out what your child’s schedule will be like. With that information, you or your child’s caregiver could experiment in mirroring the routine at home for a few weeks before the first day of school.
- Provide your child with definitive notices to practice transitions from one activity to another (“We’re going to play with our Legos for 5 more minutes before it’s time to clean up and eat lunch”).
(3) Listening: One of the most common things we have heard from parents as they drop their child off for class is, “Listen to your teacher!”
- Definitely good advice, but do not worry if your child is not quite there yet. A majority of the time in the preschool classroom will be focused on learning to listen and follow directions while maintaining your child’s joyful curiosity.
- One thing you can do at home to increase your child’s capacity to listen and follow a sequence is to give two-step directions like, “Please wash your hands, then sit at the table.” There are a number of classic games that teach little ones to stop and listen before making a choice as well: I Spy, Simon Says, and Red Light, Green Light.
(4) Early Independence — Here are some simple ways to instill an independent spirit as well as positive habits in your child in the days leading up to preschool!
- Delegate small tasks around the house that will set him or her up for success, such as setting out the napkins for dinner, getting their own tissue, picking out their own clothes in the morning (or the night before, so you’re not rushed :)) or cleaning up after playtime.
- These simple tasks will earn your child not only cheers from you, but greater self esteem when the time comes for him or her to act solo in the classroom.
- When it is time for you to step out, be strong, loving and most importantly, quick. In the classroom, he or she will stay busy playing, making friends and having memorable fun.
- Instead of sneaking out when your child isn’t looking, give them a quick, cheerful goodbye and let them know you will be back to get them at the end of the day.
- You can also re-visit the schedule you’ve been practicing and let your child know exactly when he or she will see you for pick up, “I’ll see you right after you eat your snack.” Or, as we say at Bubbles Academy, “I’ll see you right after you dance in bubbles!”
(6) Separation Kit — Check with your child’s teacher before sending them to school with objects from home, but we’ve seen great results when little ones bring a comfort object or family memory with them. Some ideas:
- Give your child a locket with a family picture inside to wear, so that they can glimpse during the day if they start to feel anxious
- Dab a little bit of your perfume or cologne on their wrist or on a handkerchief for them so they can carry your comforting scent with them throughout the day.
Just like all new situations, a little preparation and communication goes a long way in helping your child feel secure and confident! For more tips on handling toddler separation anxiety, check out this post from the Bubbles Academy blog. We also offer a Preparing for Preschool membership track with classes for thoughtfully designed for children 18 months to 3 years as they transition into school.
Samantha Perry comes from a long line of teachers, and keeps up the tradition as the lead teacher for Bubbles Academy’s 4-year-old’s Arts-Integrated Preschool Program and specialist in separation techniques. She discovered a passion for youth theatre in college, and her most cherished theatrical experience was The Chicago Children’s Theatre Company’s installation for children with autism and their families; The Red Kite Project. She holds her BFA in Acting from the Theatre School at DePaul University, and is currently pursuing her Master’s Degree in Child Development with a Specialization in Administration from Erikson Institute.
Lina Chambers leads the Arts-Integrated Preschool Program for 3 year old’s at Bubbles Academy. She hails from Idaho, where she earned her BA in theater from Boise State University, and was a resident ensemble member of the Idaho Shakespeare Festival for 4 years. Lina developed programming for students across Idaho as part of two education tours where she performed for, and taught workshops to both elementary and high school students. Lina’s seeks to inspire the core values of independence and empowerment through creative exploration in her students.