Every year mothers and fathers are nervously talking to their little toddlers about going to school soon. Many pre-schools begin at the young age of two, though most schools are designed for three and four year olds.
What does the word “school” mean to a three year old who has spent most of their short life at home or in the local park? If the child is a firstborn the concept of school may be as foreign as telling them they will be going to the moon in a few days! What are some actions you can begin now that will assist your pre-schooler in a healthy transition from home to school?
Talk – As soon as you know that this is the year to allow your little one to enter pre-school, begin talking casually about what the school looks like. Describe the first doorway, the story circle, the bathrooms and the playground. Talk about the daily schedule. Repeat the school routine to your son or daughter over and over again in every day conversation or as you are dressing them for an outing.
Tell your child the name of the teacher and what she or he looks like. Let him know how kind and friendly the teacher is and that the teacher is going to be so happy to see your child at school. Describe the story time, the art time and the free playtime. Talk with your little one about the other little boys and girls that will be there and about sharing.
Pretend – Begin to “play” school at home. Lead your child in setting up a schoolroom with all their dolls and stuffed animals as fellow students. Act out some of the routines that you know your child will be facing in his new school. This could be another good time to practice sharing with others.
Schedule – Change your child’s bedtime and wake-up schedule several weeks before school begins. If they have been able to stay up late and sleep in or just get up whenever they naturally woke up, it will be a tough switch to make if left till the first day of school! It would also be a good idea to set a regular time for lunch each day to help their little bodies be in sync with the new schedule. This could also apply to potty breaks in their mornings.
Show – Take your child to the school before the first day. Let them look around and meet the teachers if possible. Show them where they will hang their coats and go to the bathroom. Allowing your pre-schooler to feel comfortable in a strange new building will prevent the dreaded first week crying and clinging scenes.
Saying Good-bye – Most children now have been to play-dates or gymboree classes, but some may have never been away from mommy or daddy for any significant length of time. It is vital that they have this experience of being separate from you before the first day school! Set up some short times of being away from each other. Ask your mother or best friends to watch your child in their home for 30 minutes or an hour. Say “good-bye”, do not ever sneak out without a clear “Good-bye and I’ll see you in a bit.” This will help assure your child that you will return and they are safe in the meantime.
The first separation for a mom and her little one can be very tough for the mom as well as the child. We spend so much time and energy protecting our new baby and always being aware of every detail of their little world. So it is a shock to be away for more than an hour at a time. To not know how they are every second is a very unnatural sensation at first.
But the lesson of separation is good for both mother and child. As a mom you will soon come to appreciate the small break while your kids are in school and your child will become a strong and confident person.