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Is Your Little One Ready for Preschool? Here's How to Help Them Prep!

There has been an extreme togetherness with the pandemic; it would have been easier and safer to keep your little ones home with you. But now, with COVID-19 finally settling, time apart would be good for you both! And it's a good idea for your child to interact with other children since they have had limited social interactions. It is going to be a big adjustment!

Whether your little one is switching from childcare to preschool or just spending time outside your home for the first time, starting preschool is a big event! If you or your child are feeling any anxiety about the change, then there are ways to prepare that will help comfort you both! However, try to keep your efforts low-key. If you make too big a deal out of this milestone, your child may end up being more worried than excited. So, focus on the fun!

Visit the School!

Start preparing your child for school well before their first day. If possible, visit the preschool, tour the building ahead of time, and even meet the teachers to help your child get used to them! Remember, you are dropping your child into an unfamiliar environment, and when you visit the preschool ahead of time, the child can transition from home to school with greater ease because it's not a strange place. In addition, you can arrange to visit the school playground to get your child familiar with the setting. Going to the school will also help you have a look at their procedures for COVID safety.

Reading Readiness

Learning to read is a complex skill and journey, and it's good to help your child develop preschool reading skills! Kids learn best through direct experiences that let them safely experiment and explore their world, so how can you use this to help them prepare for reading? Learning to read and write is based on an awareness of the printed word. Your child will know that the spoken word (speech) can be broken down into small individual units of sound (phonemes). These sound patterns are represented by a set of symbols (letters of the alphabet). Finally, combinations of letters can be blended to form a word (phonics). 

So to help them get ready to read, read aloud to your child every day for at least 15 minutes, go to the public library often. Have them participate in the children's story hour at the library. Read ABC books, nursery rhymes, and Dr. Seuss's books. Encourage your child to "read" the repeated lines with you, reread a favorite story and leave out keywords. Then, ask your child to say the missing words. You can even use worksheets and printables to help!

You can also start a monthly book subscription, which is a great way to foster a love and excitement for reading. Your child will look forward to exploring fresh, new stories that support their literacy skills! 

One of my favorite subscription book boxes for children is Book and Bear, which includes a DIY stuffed animal plush! (Use code sweetsofties for 15% off.) Your little one gets to stuff their new friend with this easy, hands-on kit.  It's such a fun and engaging way to instill a love for learning and literacy. 


Use Pretend Play to Explore the Idea of Preschool

Take turns being the parent, child, and teacher. Act our common routines like saying bye to mum or dad, taking your coat, singing songs, reading stories, having circle time, playing outside, and taking naps. It is an opportunity to help your child realise that a preschool is a good place where they will have fun and learn. Answer their questions patiently. This will help children feel more in control which reduces their anxiety.

Welcome a Range of Emotions

It is a tumultuous time when your child goes to preschool, and it is perfectly normal to expect a wave of new emotion. It is perfectly normal for children to experience separation anxiety, especially if this is the first time away from their parents. Talking to your child about what they are feeling and experiencing can greatly soothe their discomfort. Don't ignore their feelings of anxiety in the hope that it will go away; reassure them that everything will be OK but let them talk through their feelings.

It may seem easier to avoid the topic of preschool, but increase the amount you talk about the upcoming transition about a week or two before school starts. It is important to really sit with the discomfort and anxiety that come up when anticipating a change; you can do this by modeling and saying things like, "I'm so looking forward to you starting preschool, but I'm also going to miss you. So much." Remind your child (and yourself) that change can be both exciting and sad at the same time.

Create a Schedule

Many children thrive on a predictive schedule. If you have been following a consistent schedule at home that will suddenly be changing, it can be helpful to go through what a school routine might look like. Maybe create a schedule with pictures attached as that visual will stick in your child's mind. For example, creating a program with photos attached can include clothing, cereal, shoes, and anything else that might occur while getting ready for school. Some schools use these types of charts, so it'll be something familiar that they'll also see in school.

During the two Weeks Before Preschool Starts...

The last few weeks before starting preschool are going to fly by! As you begin to countdown to the first day, there are some things to bear in mind. First, make sure you purchase a backpack with your child. If possible, let them choose it themselves, giving them a sense of control and emphasizing that they are a big kid before starting preschool!

Label all the time with your child and classroom name in permanent ink because things will get lost when surrounded by other kids. Furthermore, make sure they have got their COVID essentials, like hand sanitizer, masks, etc.

Contact the preschool's health professional if your child has medication that they take daily. There will be special rules and forms to fill out for your child to receive medication at school.

Figure out the school run routine. How is your child going to get to school and come home? Will you need to make arrangements with family members or your place of work? Make sure your child has met their before school and/or after school caregiver like a childminder if you plan to use one.

Start using your child's "school bedtime." Children often go to bed later as the summer months and longer days kick in. Please help your child get into a preschool schedule by keeping to his school bedtime, beginning about two weeks before school starts.

What About the Night Before?

The night before, it is good to spend as much time with your child as you can and get them to get ready for their first day of preschool. Answer any last minute questions, let your child choose their clothes, and make sure they go to bed on time! Pick a bedtime that gives your child a good night's rest before the first day. Keep the bedtime routine soothing and relaxing.

Quick Goodbyes

Some children hop out of the car and walk right into the classroom without looking back. Others may struggle to leave their parents. Either way, try not to linger and extend the goodbye. It can be really hard to go but know that your child is in good hands, and they will eventually calm down and be OK.

Let it out!

This goes for both children and parents. It's OK to cry! Let your child cry if they need to let out their emotions, and once you get back into your car and start driving home, it's fine for you to cry as well. Remember that you aren't the first and certainly won't be the last to leave their baby at preschool tearfully.