Starting pre-school is an exciting time for children and parents alike. Here are some simple tips to help your child feel prepared for their new adventure by building confidence, self-esteem and independence. With a little help from you, your child will find it easier to settle quickly and thrive in their new environment.
As a parent you know your child so well that they rarely need to tell you that they are hungry or worried or need the toilet, you just read those little signs and you know. Encourage your little one to label feelings by prompting them with questions such as ‘you’re yawning, are you tired?’ This will help them learn the language to communicate feelings and needs to adults who don’t know them as well as you do.
Prepare your child for group play by showing them how to share and take turns. You can do this using role-play, or by involving them in games and activities that require turn-taking such as memory and dominoes. Better still, set up play times with friends and siblings and if a squabble erupts, you can help your child understand the fundamentals of sharing fairly and taking turns in a real peer situation.
Time Out from Parents
If your child is not used to spending time in the care of relatives or friends, try to build in a few opportunities to practise. Always say goodbye when you leave your child with others, don’t try to sneak out of the room when they are distracted as this will cause anxiety. Saying goodbye and ‘I will be back after you have had some time to play’ (or similar) will provide reassurance that you will always come back, and build confidence that they can manage without you for short periods.
Pre-schools will have a settling-in period that should take as long as needed for your child to feel secure and settled in their new environment. Take advantage of these settling sessions, as they are important so that you, your child and staff at the pre-school can all get to know each other. Be prepared to stay with your child for part of a session as often as needed and be guided by pre-school staff who will explain their settling in process to you.
It is useful to prepare your little one for what a day at pre-school might involve. If you are cooking/painting/doing puzzles with your child, remember to tell them - with an excited smile - that these are the kind of fun activities that they will do at pre-school. Perhaps you could pack a picnic one day using the same lunch bag and containers s/he will use, as this will help familiarise them with a packed lunch. Reassure them that staff at pre-school are there to help and they won’t be cross about toilet accidents or missing mummy.
Heap on the praise when your child manages to put on their shoes without any help, or zips up their coat unaided. Help them to increase their independence by showing them how to hang their coat up on a peg or help put the toys away. These small tasks help your child to build their self esteem and will be greatly appreciated by pre-school staff, too.
These helpful pointers, and the support of staff at your chosen pre-school, should really help you and your child get off to a flying start. Good luck!
Written for the Pre-school Learning Alliance by Martha Hales