9 Tips for the First Day of Preschool
Make the first day of school for your preschooler a breeze with this advice.
The first day of preschool can be hard on both parents and children. For many, it's the first time that they will have been away from each other for such an extended period of time. Even though many kids will be excited for their first day of school, it is important to know that new experiences can bring some apprehensions. Approaching them the right way will allow both children and parents to feel comfortable with the transition into pre-k.
Here are nine tips to prepare for the first day of preschool.
Is your child a little younger and just starting day care? Read about these 16 Tips for the First Day of Day Care »
"Because young children are naturally curious, active and eager to try new things, the preschool years are the ideal time to lay the foundation for learning," says Jan Z. Olsen of Get Set for School.
Before the first day, explain social concepts such as waiting in line, teach body parts and count objects in your environment. This knowledge will give your child more confidence for the first day. Ask your nanny to help out by talking about these concepts too.
Pay Attention to the Body
Parenting expert Elaine Taylor-Klaus reminds parents, "Sufficient sleep, water and protein can make or break a child's day. While you're busy getting clothes and backpacks in line, remember to talk to your child about being aware of what's happening in his/her body. Help your kids see that when they are hungry or thirsty, they tend to get cranky -- and that they usually feel better after a nap, snack or drink."
Plan the Night Before
Rather than rushing in the morning to pack lunches and pick out clothes, Sue Adair, director of education at the Goddard School, suggests that you have your preschooler help you with these tasks the night before. "They can help pick out what they are going to wear and help grab snacks to include in their lunch box."
Get on Schedule
Practice wake-up time the week before, recommends Adair. "Setting the alarm for when your child will need to wake for preschool before will help them get used to the new schedule." If the time is much earlier than normal, your preschooler may need bedtime adjusted earlier as well.
Keep Your Feelings in Check
Children pick up on things easily, says Paulette Janus, childhood expert and licensed clinical social worker. "Sending your child to preschool is a big step, often signifying to parents that their child is growing up. If they feel that you are sad or worried, they may believe that they should feel sad or worried as well and that going to school is a bad thing. So send out good vibes."
Visualize the Day
Thinking about what might come next for school will help your child to feel more empowered and less likely to be upset by surprises on the first day, says Taylor-Klaus. "Encourage your child to imagine what school might be like, and remember to come up with many different scenarios so she or he won't be surprised if it's not what was expected."
You can even take this a step further and create a book about the day, says Carolyn Stolov, family-life expert at Care.com. Draw a fun book with your child, with each page showing a different thing that can happen from drop-off to pick-up (or include the morning routine as well). Ask the day care teachers for some advice on what to include.
Take a Field Trip
Early childhood expert Ashley Jefferson suggests that families take a trip to visit the school. "Transitioning can be tricky for young ones, especially if it's a place where they will be spending a large part of their day," she says. "Get them as familiar with their new school as possible by scheduling a tour or any other options the school may offer." Attend special events that the school is holding or schedule a play date with a fellow student who lives nearby.
Drop off your preschooler a few minutes early, to allow for one-on-one time with the teacher and time to get acquainted with the room when it's still calm and quiet, says Adair.
After the first day has gone by, prepare kids for the next one by asking your child to report back to you after the first day. "Tell him/her that you wish you could be there, and ask for a report of what happens that: makes them laugh, is surprising, is confusing, is silly, is kind, etc.," suggests Taylor-Klaus. If your nanny will be picking your child up from preschool, ask her to talk about these things too.
Do you have any other tips or tricks you use to prepare for the first day of school? Share them in the comments section below!
Gillian Kruse is a freelance writer living in Houston.