Sending a kid off to preschool for the very first time can be scary even if you’re sure you’ve found the very best preschool — and it’s often no easier for the parents than it is for the child. Yet the benefits of pre kindergarten education are so well documented that it’s hard to argue with the decision to invest in early childhood education. So how can you ease the transition into preschool? You have to be prepared for the fact that it may not be smooth sailing from day one, but here are five tried-and-true strategies:
- Talk About Preschool Regularly
Introduce school into discussion on a regular basis without fixating on it. Mention how much you enjoyed going to school when you were young, or comment on another kid who has started school and is making lots of friends there.
- Reassure Them You’re Coming Back
Reinforce that you’ll be seeing your child soon. You can also play games that deal with the concept of object permanence, such as rolling a ball under the couch and then asking your child if the ball is still there. Most children grasp the concept of object permanence long before preschool, but separation anxiety can threaten that understanding.
- Set Up an Advance Visit
Before the first day of school, arrange for a classroom visit so your child can meet his or her teacher. Having a familiar face will make a big difference to your child — as will knowing that school is essentially a big, fun place with lots of toys.
- Engage in Plenty of Group Play
Make sure your child is comfortable engaging in group games that involve collaborating and taking turns (“duck duck goose” and “London Bridge” are classics). Kids who are used to playing by themselves at home may need a little help with these skills at first. Community play groups are a great option for getting started.
- Give Your Child Some Agency
You can’t give your child the choice of whether to start preschool or not, but you can let him or her make associated choices such as which clothes to wear for the first day of school or which toy or comfort object to bring along. This can give your child a sense of agency and ownership and make him or her excited about growing up and starting school.
Do you have any tips on easing the anxiety a child may feel about starting preschool? Share them in the comments!