So let’s start with a disclaimer. I am an Educator and NOT a parent. Educators and parents have very different perspectives on a child’s development. That being said, I have worked with babies, toddlers and preschoolers for nearly 16 years in multiple capacities, I read a lot and most of all, I pay attention to children.
So here goes! This is my list of the top 10 things you can do to set up a child for success in preschool:
If I could name the most contentious issue with the preschool set, it would be shoes, no question. What is it about shoes?! I think it’s one of those concrete ways that a child can assert autonomy but still feels frustration (can’t get the right shoe on the right foot, can’t tie a shoe, mom says those aren’t the right shoes for the occasion).
So here’s the advice: As you and your child prepare for the first day of school, go to the store (make a BIG deal of it) and let your child choose a pair of school shoes. By distinguishing one pair of shoes that is appropriate for school, you will avoid potential struggles getting ready in the morning. Yes, children need choices but when trying to get dressed, fed and out the door, “which pair to wear” does not need to be one of them.
And please, don’t get caught up in trying to match shoes or go with something cute. All preschoolers look cute in athletic shoes, even with a dress. Don’t you want your child to be able to move, run, jump and play with friends? I love boots and flip-flops just as much as the next gal, but if your child is in awkward shoes for fashion’s sake, you’re giving him/her a disadvantage in motor skills. Resist the temptation!
(Note: Some schools request easy on/off shoes so please be sure to discuss this. Just be sure your child can jump, run and gallop without the shoes flying off.)
#9 SIMPLE CLOTHES
Along the same lines, keep clothing simple. Your child’s teacher will appreciate potty-friendly pants. And again, “fancy and frilly” slows down some children. Give your child an advantage with clothing that is easy to move in. And make sure you encourage your child to enjoy getting messy. You don’t want your child to miss out of the mud-pie making, finger painting and snack smearing that really build creativity.
#8 LEAVE IT IN THE CAR
Breakfast, teddy bear, action figure—leave it at home or in the car. Whether half a waffle or a Transformer, the other children see and covet whatever your child brings in. This sets up your child for a conflict as soon as he/she walks in the door!
And don’t worry if your child didn’t finish breakfast. I don’t know of any preschool that lacks ample snacks to sustain a hungry child.
#7 SOMETHING TO HOLD ONTO
On the flip side to #8, a rare few children have such difficultly with transitions that they need to bring something into school. Please discuss this with your teacher before sending something in with your child. They probably have suggestions and guidelines. Here’s what I’ve seen work:
- a book to show the teacher (teacher promptly puts it back in the child’s cubby and that’s sufficient)
- a token, such as a stone in a pocket to remind them of mom and dad (anything works, as long as it won’t be a distraction)
- a heart or smiley-face drawn on his/her hand with a non-toxic marker is often just the trick.
#6 GENTLE TRANSITIONS
Even the most resilient children do not handle new experiences and transitions well. Think about it from a child’s perspective: the younger a child is, the more sights, sounds, smells, places, and people are brand new each day. None of us would like to have so many new experiences thrown at us in such rapid succession as we give a child. So prepare your child for new experiences with discussion and pictures. Then try to limit change and transition to ONE new thing per day. You will strengthen your child’s emotional security greatly if you keep it simple and gentle.
I’ve never understood why more families don’t choose to carpool. Besides the fact that it provides the adults a little relief, children gain huge social confidence by having a friend to walk in and out of the building with. Even if the children are different ages or not even friends, they have a buddy. Think about how it feels for you, an adult, to walk into a group alone versus with another person.
Additionally, for children who are reluctant to go into school, this is a real game changer.
#4 NO PHONE ZONE
The ride to and from school is a critical time for your child to make the transition from “comfy safe home” to school and vice versa. Please please please give them your full attention on the ride. Sing together, discuss the day, whatever…just BE with your child in the car.
And no watching DVDs on a 5-minute ride to preschool! (Do I really even need to write this?)
#3 GET SOME SLEEP
The thing to remember with any child is this: You cannot fight physiology. I can look at a room full of children tell you exactly who is well rested and who should’ve gone to bed earlier. I can see it in their eyes and those who don’t get enough rest can’t keep up. Plus they’re grumpy and easily frustrated. In general, if your child is tired/hungry/getting over something and it’s you versus physiology, you will not win.
Make playdates with your child’s classmates so he/she can get even more comfortable with peers and be at ease at school, and so you can know your child’s peers, too. It will help both of you to know your classmates outside of school. And consider a playdate exchange to relieve yourself one day a week by alternating with another family: You take both children for lunch and playdate every Tuesday for an extra 3 hours and the other family does the same every Thursday. The children will entertain each other and enjoy the routine and each family gets an extra block of time.
#1 Find out the number one tip for preschool success in next Monday’s post!
What are your favorite tips for preschool success?