Preschool is different from daycare in that your child will begin to develop the skills they need for a successful education in the future. If your child has never been to any type of daycare, the transition can be even more confusing for your child. The following tips can help smooth the way.
Tip #1: Visit some group setting before the first day
Preschool activities, many of them free, are readily available in most urban and suburban locations. Look for a library story time or a craft time at a local store, and then plan to drop in for a visit. This will give your child exposure to the more laid back group settings similar to many preschool classrooms. They will get used to sitting in a group, following group instructions, and working with their peers before the first day of preschool.
Tip #2: Put in advance planning on the friend front
It can be difficult for a young child to be the new kid and to be separated from mom and dad all at the same time. One way to avoid this is to see if the preschool offers any play date services. Some schools simply provide the contact information of all students starting in a class and parents can arrange play dates in advance of the first day. Other schools offer several new family activities so that the kids can get together and meet before preschool starts. Take advantage of these options so your child won't feel alone when preschool begins.
Tip #3: Get physically ready for the first day by making it fun
Bed time may need to be adjusted depending on when your child normally wakes up and when they have to be at preschool. If so, begin this process several weeks before. You can use the earlier bedtime as an excuse to read picture books to your child about starting school to help prepare them and to set their mind at ease. You can further help build up the excitement and make it fun by taking your child shopping so they can pick out their school backpack or other supplies they may need.
Tip #4: Practice saying goodbye
Goodbye can be especially hard for young preschoolers. If you and your child haven't been separated much in the past, take some time to practice by leaving them with familiar and trusted adults for short periods leading up to the first day of school. Grandparents, aunts or uncles, or close friends are good choices. Then, on the day of preschool give your child a special object, perhaps something that belongs to you, for them wear or carry for comfort. Costume jewelry, a small nap time pillow, or bandana are examples of a comfort object. Assure your child that you love them and will return, but don't linger since this can make it more difficult in the long run. Your child will likely get over any separation anxiety quickly once they begin engaging in activities with the other kids.
Call a preschool in your area, like Small World Early Learning & Development Center or a similar location, for more preparation tips.