Entering preschool or childcare is a milestone for both parents and child. Educators at the childcare centre typically take care of the child for up to 12 hours each school day, so that means a large part of their day is spent with trusted adults in a safe place.
The transition to a new routine which involves new faces and environment – preschool or childcare – can be hard to handle and even traumatic. To help with this, we have come up with a few tips on how to prepare your child not only for their first day of preschool but how to adapt with lesser tears.
1. Prepare a comfort item
A comfort item provides emotional security for your child, helping them to deal with the anxiety they experience when away from home for long hours. It can be something that your child already has an attachment to, or a brand new item purchased together.
You can even entrust them to safe keep a personal belonging of yours, like a scarf or handkerchief, until the end of the school day. This reassures them that you will be back to pick them up.
2. Read books about preschool
Read books about entering preschool together with your child shows them at a glance what preschool is all about, what to expect, and how they will learn new things with new friends.
3. Adjust your schedule at home
Ask for a copy of the schedule from your child’s centre and note when the nap times and bath times are. A few months before they start preschool officially, gradually adjust the schedule at home to match the preschool’s meal and nap times. This will somewhat let the rhythms of the preschool’s schedule feel more natural.
4. Get your child involved
Visiting the preschool during drop-off and pick-up hours with your child allows them to observe the procedure of how the students bid goodbye to their parents (during drop-off) and reassure them that you will be back for them when school ends (during pick-up). In the process, you can even introduce your child to their future teacher(s) to build familiarity.
Also, preparing for preschool involves packing a whole list of items and labelling them. Giving your child the autonomy of deciding the items they want to bring to preschool and the responsibility of labelling them instils a sense of responsibility and pride.
5. Provide sufficient time for your child to ease in
It is natural if your child exhibits signs of anxiety or apprehension on entering the childcare premises. Most, if not all, preschools allow parents to accompany their child for the first three days and for half-day each time.
If you are unable to do so, sit down with your child and reassure them that you will be back to pick them up, no matter what. After that, say goodbye with confidence as your little one will be able to pick up on any tension or nervousness in your voice.
Even with these tips, every child reacts differently and it would be reasonable to give your child about one or two months to fully adjust and settle down after making friends. This will also provide the teacher(s) and your child with time to build up their bond, so your child knows that there are trusted adults who will care for him when mummy and daddy are not with him in preschool.
What was your child’s first day at preschool or childcare like? Do share your experience with us too!