Beginning preschool is a big step for your little one as they adjust to an entirely new environment and routine. As a parent, you want to make the transition as smooth as possible.
Luckily, some at-home preparation in the weeks leading up to the first day of preschool can make a huge difference. Capitalizing on at-home learning experiences, and creating structure in their daily life, will help to prepare your child for preschool culture.
Read on for more ways to help your little one get ready for their first school experience.
16 Establish a Daily Schedule
The biggest shift most children face when starting preschool is adjusting to a set schedule. Preschool is often very structured compared to their days spent at home with mom. You can help make this transition easier by implementing a daily schedule in the weeks leading up to preschool.
Following a routine provides opportunities for your little one to make decisions, and act according to the activity at hand. Not only do children learn best when following a schedule, it also helps your child develop a sense of time, order, and patterns. Established schedules and routines help your child wrap their head around what the day will hold and ease transitions into the structured life of preschool.
15 Stick with Morning and Night Routines
Morning and nighttime routines can give children a sense of comfort, especially in instances of change, like starting preschool. A consistent routine will give your child a sense of reassurance and belonging as they begin to know what to expect in the morning and night.
A good morning routine could be waking up, getting dressed, eating breakfast, brushing teeth and even making their bed. A morning task chart can help get your child excited about their new routine as they get to check off the tasks and maybe even get a reward for a job well done.
A bedtime routine can be similar and include; getting into pajamas, brushing teeth, reading a book, talking about the day and lots of snuggles. As your child begins to associate bedtime with cuddles and storytime instead of going to sleep in a dark room alone, bedtime should become much easier.
14 Master Fine Motor Skills
It’s important to encourage the development of your child’s fine motor skills prior to preschool to give them a head start. Fine motor skills include working with their hands. Developing fine motor skills will help to give your child more independence doing daily tasks such as zipping their own coat, brushing their own teeth or washing their own hands.
A rather important fine motor skill to help your child with prior to preschool is how to properly hold a pencil. Once a child has adopted a certain way to hold their pencil it’s difficult to change, which is why it’s so important to teach your child the correct way to hold their pencil from the get-go.
13 Work with Shapes
Believe it or not, learning about shapes early on in life can help with future math, logic, reading and writing skills. Learning about shapes is a pre-geometry skill that helps your child problem solve when they are playing with blocks. Understanding shapes can help your child figure out why their tower keeps falling down or why their toy truck won’t fit in their round box.
Additionally, recognizing shapes is a skill that will help your child learn to read in the future since letters are essentially more complex shapes. Your child will use the same skills that they use to identify a circle or square, to identify different letters in the future.
12 Create Daily Chores
Creating a set list of daily chores for your toddler can also help prepare them for the different jobs they will have at preschool. Simple tasks such as taking their plate to the sink or cleaning up toys are small jobs that can teach your child a lot about responsibility and helping out.
It’s important to provide encouragement when your child has completed a chore well, in order to promote the same behavior in the future. Since your child will likely need to clean up after themselves at preschool or help put craft supplies away, it’s important to implement these responsibilities at home as well.
11 Promote Reading
Reading to your child every day will not only promote a love for reading, but will enhance their vocabulary as well. Although story-time is the most popular form of encouraging reading, your child can develop the skills needed for reading in other ways as well. Poems, songs, and rhymes can help your child begin to make connections between words, objects, and letters, all of which are precursors to reading.
Some fun at-home activities you can do with your child to promote reading include:
- Rhyme Time: You and your child go back and forth saying different words that rhyme with each other.
- Story-time: Creating your own stories instead of simply reading books can inspire your child’s imagination and their love of stories.
- Use Technology: Use a computer or iPad to type out words, names and letters to encourage letter identification.
10 Practice Listening
Since preschoolers are natural busybodies, many preschool teachers encourage their students to be still and listen to various instructions throughout the day. You can promote this type of listening by asking your child to sit still and listen. Then, ask them to tell you about all the sounds they can hear.
It’s also important that your child is able to follow instructions that involve more than one step. Start asking your child to do a couple of things in a row such as; taking their shoes off, putting them away and then sitting down on the couch. You can also play games such as I-Spy or Simon-Says to encourage listening skills. Sending a child that can listen off to preschool will be a breeze since listening to mommy and teacher will be so similar.
9 Get Outside
Depending on where you live, your child will likely spend some of their preschool time outside, so it’s important to acclimatize your child to the outdoors. Exploring in nature is the easiest way to teach your toddler about science.
You can create miniature lessons about plants, animals, and weather. Simply point out different flowers or trees and ask your child to guess what kind of tree they are looking at, is a great lesson in biology. Since your child will be captivated by nature you can sneak in a science lesson almost anywhere you go, which will be great for preparing them for preschool.
8 Play with Water
In addition to exploring outside, introducing your child to water is a great way to promote a love of exploration. Even bath-time can be a learning experience as they experiment with different toys that sink or float. It may sound funny, but your toddler has the natural characteristics of a scientist.
Ask your child if they think they’re rubber ducky will float. Without even being aware of the scientific method your child will formulate a hypothesis, execute an experiment and observe the results. This type of experimentation provides a foundation that your child can pull from when they explore more complicated concepts in the future.
7 Get Creative
Creating art, whether in the form of finger painting, drawing or molding clay teaches your child valuable fine motor skills. Working with their hands will develop skills they need to write. Art is also a great way to encourage your child’s creativity and expression.
Painting is one of the best types of art you can do with your child as it stimulates a lot of their senses. When your child paints they smell the paint, feel the brush or the cold liquid on their hands, and see the colors as they mix together to make new ones. Experiences that combine the senses are critical to forming connections in their brain and fostering creativity.
6 Use Your Imagination
Around eighteen months your child should develop that ability to play-pretend, or imagine they are doing things they aren’t actually doing such as drinking pretend tea at a tea party. This is an important milestone since the ability to imagine (or think hypothetically) is the first step towards being able to think about abstract concepts, such as math.
So, how can you encourage your child’s imagination? Simply play along with them. A typical preschool day for your child will likely involve a lot of imagination, whether it’s during story time or playing house with other children. Encouraging their creativity through using their imagination is a great way to prepare them for this type of play.
5 Visit the School
As the first day of preschool approaches it’s a good idea to take your child for a sneak-peak to prepare them for what’s ahead. If it’s not possible to go during a time where other kids will be there, take them in the evening. Show them all the toys and the playground while you explain what goes on at a preschool.
Showing your child where they will be spending part of their days before you leave them to explore on their own will ease first-day jitters for your little one. It’s also a good idea to schedule some time for a meet-and-greet with the teacher so that your child isn’t left with a complete stranger on their first day.
4 Talk About It
If you work with your child to develop all of the skills we’ve listed in this article, there is no doubt your child will mentally be prepared for preschool. However, being emotionally prepared is another issue altogether.
Talk to your child about what preschool is, what they will be doing there and let them know that they will get to play with other kids while they are there.
You can also prepare them by reading stories about starting school. Books with pictures of classrooms will be extra helpful as your child will be able to visualize where they will be going and what they will be doing there. Let your child ask as many questions as they need in order to feel comfortable with the new transition.
3 Master the Goodbye
The first-day of preschool can be a hard time for both you and your child so having a plan for your goodbye is crucial. If your child hasn’t been away from you before they can be worried that you won’t come back at the end of the day.
Although you may be tempted to sneak out while a teacher or child distracts your child, this will generally upset them once they realize you are gone. Instead, invent a special good-bye ritual with your little one that you can do at the beginning of each school day. Experts say that a quick goodbye is better than a long, drawn out one so keep that in mind when creating your ritual.
A simple high-five, fun handshake or cute little rhyme are all good ideas. One mom used the rhyme “Bye-bye for now, my sweet little son, I’ll be back to get you when you’re done having fun.” Find something fun that works for your child and stick with it. They will soon figure out that the ritual means that mom/dad will always come back to get them.
2 Keep An Eye Out For Anxiety
Despite all the planning and preparation you do, your child may still have some separation anxiety. Keep an eye out for the signs and work with the preschool teacher to overcome this issue. A few signs of separation anxiety in a toddler include being clingy, throwing tantrums and rejecting caregivers other than parents.
Although it’s hard to hear your child cry as you leave them at preschool, know that this means you have created a meaningful bond with him/her and in a way, is a good thing. Communicate that you will only be gone a short while and will be back to get them soon. It may help to offer them another form of comfort in your absence such as a favorite stuffed animal or toy.
Maintaining a schedule will eventually, reassure your child that you will come back, and ease their anxiety. If separation anxiety persists and your child develops physical symptoms such as vomiting, contact your pediatrician, as there could be a deeper problem.
1 Prepare Yourself
As you focus on preparing your child for preschool, you may neglect to prepare yourself. Although being away from mom can be challenging for a young child, it can at times be even harder on you. If you have been a stay-at-home mom, the sudden quiet in the house can be deafening.
In order to make the transition easier, make sure to fill up the first few days that your child will be at preschool with activities. Meet friends for coffee, run errands, go to the gym, clean the house without distraction. Do all the things you have wanted to do, but couldn’t while your toddler was around.
As time goes on you will grow to love the alone time you have while your child is at preschool. Until that time comes, stay positive and know that preschool is the first step in providing your child with a bright future. Hang in there mom!
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