Preparing your child for preschool

Posted on 7 January 2016

Sending your little one to preschool for the first time is a major change, both for parents and their children. Here’s how to make sure you’re all prepared.

One minute they’re tiny babies, the next they’re taking their first steps and suddenly it’s time to send them off to school. They may grow up faster than we’d like, but few things are more rewarding for parents than helping their children begin their school careers.

Prepare your child
A little separation anxiety is normal when your little one starts preschool but getting them excited about the new adventure they’re about to start and giving them a taste of what to expect can help ease the transition. Experts suggest the following ways to help prepare them for this new chapter:

• Time with friends: The ability to socialise and interact positively with other children is key to preschool success. Arrange more playdates with kids of a similar age so your little one becomes more accustomed to sharing the limelight and their toys. Alternatively in the months leading up to school, start swimming lessons or musical appreciation – any activity that gets them used to taking instruction and playing co-operatively with their peers.
• Establish a routine: A major part of adapting to preschool means adjusting to a new routine. Having a daily structure already in place prepares your child for following the kind of framework that comes with going to school. Establishing a set morning routine, nap time and bedtime ritual all give your child a sense of security because they know what to expect. Once this structure’s already established, adding school to the mix will be less disruptive to your child.
• Read to your child: There are countless benefits that come with reading to your child and slowly teaching him or her to read along with you. Exercising their imaginations, developing their vocabulary, concentration, comprehension and listening skills and simply spending quality time together are all part of the literary journey. Storytime is also an integral part of the school day so having this as an already familiar and beloved pastime is a big advantage.
• Let them know what to expect: Find the balance between building school up too much – where it can become too imposing a prospect for your child – and not preparing him or her at all. A few weeks before school starts casually throw it into conversation. For example when they’re climbing outside, say ‘these are the kind of swings and slides you’ll play with at school!’ or read them stories about school.

Prepare yourself
Having your child start school for the first time can be an emotional prospect for a parent… but fear not – it gets easier! Experts suggest the following coping strategies:
• It’s natural to worry but try not to let any anxieties you have affect your child – the calmer you are about the change, the calmer they’ll be.
• Familiarise yourself and your child with the school before they start by observing a class or meeting with the teacher. This will give you peace of mind and give your little one a taste of what’s to come.
• Learn to say goodbye to your child each day with the knowledge that they’re exactly where they’re supposed to be and you’ll be together soon. Long drawn out goodbyes are detrimental to parents and children so assure them you’ll be back later and leave.
• If you’re a stay at home parent, find a new hobby or part-time job to keep you occupied and fulfilled while your child is at school.

In the interest of our patients, in accordance with SA law and our commitment to expertise, Mediclinic cannot subscribe to the practice of online diagnosis. Please consult a medical professional for specific medical advice. If you have any major concerns, please see your doctor for an assessment. If you have any cause for concern, your GP will be able to direct you to the appropriate specialists.

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