It’s that time of year again, when parents up and down the land are dusting down their fireplaces and polishing their front doors, ready for the obligatory ‘first-day-back-at-school-in-oversized-uniform’ photo.
Thankfully we’re not quite there yet. Partly because our front door is beyond redemption but mainly because Little B only started preschool in January and has another year to go before starting school.
It may only have been pre-school, but seeing her in her uniform on her first day made me incredibly emotional. Until that day, Little B had almost always been at home with me. She’d never been in a nursery setting before and while she’s always been a really confident little girl, it was hard to know how she’d feel in a strange new environment, and how I’d feel without her.
Turns out she felt absolutely brilliant. And I felt a bit redundant.
When little ones move on to the next stage in their lives there can be many challenges, but I found there were a few things that helped make the move a bit easier for us. I’m far from being an expert, but purely from experience, here are my top 5 tips for a less stressful transition to preschool.
1. Get organised and keep calm
On one of Little B’s first days at pre-school I managed to forget to take her book bag, lunch bag, and a pair of shoes to change into from her wellies. You’d never believe a person could forget that much in one day, but if you’re not organised and heading out the door in a mad panic, it’s amazing what can go wrong!
Put together a checklist and be certain you have everything you need well in advance of that first day. Check that you have all the necessary uniform items, and consider what else your little one might need to take with them. For example, they may need a change of clothes in case of toilet accidents (or in case they decide to have a tea party outside with LOTS of filthy muddy water, which seems to happen with alarming frequency at Little B’s preschool…).
If you’re organised, you’ll be much calmer. If you’re not, you may end up feeling stressed and anxious, and your little one is likely pick up on this.
2. Talk talk talk (and talk some more!) to your child about what will happen at preschool
Children can be so much more confident when going into a new environment if they know what to expect. Arrange a visit to the preschool with them beforehand so they can see what the surroundings are like. Find out as much as you can about the daily routine so that you can start to familiarise your child with it. Talk to them about what will happen during the day – the fun activities they might get to take part in and all the children they’ll get to play with.
If there’s something they love doing at home that they can also do at nursery, talk to them about it. Little B loves painting but to be honest, I can’t always be doing with the mess at home. She was beyond excited when she realised that she’d be able to paint at preschool and it was the thing she looked forward to most for at least the first 3 months.
I’ve always believed that if little ones know what to expect, they’ll do fine.
3. Provide reassurance and remind them that you’ll be back to pick them up
If this is your little one’s first time in a nursery setting, remember to reassure them that even though you won’t be with them while they’re at preschool, you still love them and you can’t wait to hear all about their day.
It’s also important to make sure they understand that you will be picking them up later in the day. It’s so simple but so important. To us adults, it’s obvious that we’re not planning to leave our children indefinitely in a strange new place full of people they’ve never met, but how could a 3 year old be expected to know that if no one has explained it to them?
4. And don’t be late!
An obvious one, but try to be on time when picking up your little one, particularly in the first few weeks. Being confident that you will always be there to collect them at the end of each day will help them to settle. Obviously sometimes matters beyond your control may mean that you can’t get there on time and in such situations, preschool staff should be able to reassure your child. But being there when they expect may make the settling in period run more smoothly for both of you.
5. Don’t be sad that they’re growing up, and focus on the positives
I found this hard. My little girl was leaving me to be looked after by people I barely knew and I wouldn’t be there to help her find her feet or to comfort her if she got hurt or upset. Difficult as it was, I tried to get excited about preschool with her. If she knew I was emotional or sad that I would no longer have her to myself all day every day, there’s a chance she may not have felt as positive as she did about the transition to preschool.
Focus on all the new experiences your child will have and the new friends they will make. It’s an emotional time but also an exciting time. Be proud of them as they make this huge leap from toddler to preschooler.
I think it’s fair to say that I definitely found the move to preschool harder than Little B, who thankfully settled in straight away without any problems. I’m hoping that next year she settles into school just as easily, although I may need a bit of help to cope with that one if I’m to avoid collapsing into an emotional heap. Anyone got any tips?