Preparing for preschool? Our Miss Natalie and Miss Sam have witnessed many teary goodbyes and first day breakdowns. However, the two have also experienced their students reaching classroom confidence through sound encouragement and special practice both in the classroom and at home.
Below are Natalie and Sam’s six steps for parents to take to both ease child’s separation anxiety and to guide a smooth transition into preschool and beyond!
(1) Details, Details: Very often, children love to 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! They know where Elmo lost his blanket, but it is fun to hear you explain it (many times).
- 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 overall expect.
- You could even create and color a simple little book together that you can share again and again before the first day. Don’t forget the happy ending when you, or a caregiver comes to pick him or her up at the end of the day!
(2) Schedule: When 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 preschool 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.
- Make sure to provide your child with definitive notices (“We’re going to play with our Legos for 5 more minutes before it’s time to clean up and eat lunch”). This is a strong tactic for easing into a new routine and preparing for preschool.
(3) Listening: One of the most common things we have heard from parents as they are dropping their child off for class is, “Listen to your teacher!”
- Definitely good advice, but do not worry if he or she is not quite there yet. A majority of the time in the preschool classroom will be focused on learning to listen and follow directions.
- 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: I Spy, Simon Says, and Red Light, Green Light.
(4) Early Independence — There are 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 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.
(5) Big Smiles, Short Goodbyes — Let your child see that you’re comfortable leaving because you know he or she will have fun and be safe.
- 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.
- 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.” As we say at Bubbles Academy, “after teacher blows bubbles!”
(6) Extracurricular Excitement — If your child is already in preschool or a new toddler, enrolling him or her in a local playgroup or activity is a phenomenal way to not only build familiarity with but also encourage a love of structured group activity.
- Bubbles Academy’s enrichment class options encourage discovering early interests, experiencing transitions and growing developmentally! Check out Art + Music, Bubble Ballet and Taste Buddies: Kid’s Cooking!
Natalie and Sam also recommend counseling with fellow parents on the topic. Join Bubbles Academy and Neighborhood Parent Network for an upcoming workshop opportunity …
Preschool Prep — Easing the Separation Process with special guest, Jane Nolan of Park West Cooperative Nursery School on Wednesday, September 18th, 7-8:30 p.m. Register for Preschool Prep — Easing the Separation Process.
Sam Perry comes from a long line of teachers, and keeps up the tradition as our Pre-Preschool Programs Coordinator 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.
Natalie Monterastelli is the Executive Director of Bubbles Academy and she holds a Master’s degree in Educational Theater from NYU. Natalie returned to Chicago in 2012 after launching an Educational Theatre company in her hometown of Champaign.