My daughter is very sad to leave our preschool cooperative behind and is very jealous that my son will be attending “her preschool” this year.
We never had any difficulty seeing her off to preschool. As soon as she heard there would be story time and crafts, she couldn’t hop out of my car quick enough! By the time she was four, she was actively pushing me out the door and asking, “Why are you still here?”
My son, on the other hand, is ambivalent about spending a whole 5 hours a week outside our home without mommy. Here are some of the ways we’re helping him prepare, academically, socially, and emotionally, for preschool.
I Know That!
There is a value to confidence. If your child is worried that the other children seem more advanced, point out the things he might recognize in the classroom–whether it is shapes or colors or common objects.
Reminding my son that there will be train tracks at the school, just like at home, and that he has pointed out the letters on the wall alphabet before helps him feel ready.
With my educator’s hat on, I hope most preschools follow a “play” curriculum. That does not mean that no learning takes place (in fact, quite the opposite). Nor does it mean that there is not a value to at-home preparations and readiness. All this means is that the business of a 3-5 year old (and I would argue a 3-7 year old) is primarily play and most of the learning should happen through play.
Maybe your three year old recognizes letters or numbers or maybe he only knows the first letter of his name. Perhaps your four year old can read and do simple mathematics, or she has just learned the alphabet. There is a huge range of “normal” at this age that will flatten out somewhat as the children get older. My advice is to not push any academic skills on a three or four year old who hasn’t shown interest, yet. Your goal is for them to love school and learning!
What I do encourage, however, is giving them the opportunity to practice the skills that will help them learn reading, writing, and arithmetic when they are ready. Count everything, read as much and as often as they like, point out written words wherever you go, and give them access to crayons, safety-scissors, play dough, and other toys that encourage fine motor control.
My son and daughter have been using small, blunt scissors since they were two. Bad parenting? Or smart preschool prep?
We live in a world that drills infants with flashcards but has a fear of handing a three year old a blunt pair of scissors (under supervision).
Children who grow-up in a print-rich environment will learn to read very quickly when they are ready. The kindergarten teachers with whom I have spoken feel confident that their students will be able to learn to read but worry about their inability to hold a pencil!
Let’s Be Friends!
Whether you have a shy child who has difficulty approaching others or a child who just cannot sit still or is more aggressive, you may be anxious about starting school.
Your child may surprise you with how differently he acts in a new environment. If you do notice that he is uncomfortable, share your worries with the preschool teacher–I guarantee she’s seen it all before! She will try to help your child in the classroom and may suggest setting up outside play dates, rehearsing social situations at home, or finding alternative ways of expending extra energy.
A partnership with the teacher is essential so that you are using the same language to reinforce acceptable behavior at home and at school.
If attention span is the issue, you can also have a short circle time at home, even if it is just you and one child. Read stories and sing songs to gradually extend your child’s attention span.
I Can’t Wait for School!
If your child is concerned about attending school, address those concerns honestly but then focus on the positive: “I am glad you enjoy time at home with mommy. Let’s talk about what we want to do together after school!” “I know you like your friends at day care. We will still have play dates with them and you can introduce them to your new friends from preschool!”
For some children, a rehearsal is all they need to relieve anxiety. See if there is a “meet the teacher” day or if you can tour the classroom before school starts. Some schools also offer summer programs. If neither is possible, then take a drive over to the school and walk over to the building. At home, run through some of the activities of the day. Once your child knows what to expect, he may be more excited about school.
Most child development experts advise strongly against “bribing” children but school supplies are not the same as bribes! A special snack bag or backpack or pencil set that can only be used for preschool may be just the thing to get your child excited about school. Every day for the last two weeks my son has been opening the close to look at his new dragon lunchbox and now he is eager to bring it to preschool.
Consider Postponing School
Some families need preschool as a childcare option but, if this is not the case, do not worry that your child is harmed by waiting to attend school. Preschool can be fun but studies have found no social, emotional, or academic differences between older children who have had preschool and those who have not.
All children develop at different paces and children will learn more quickly if they are ready to learn. And if your child is not ready for separation, consider library programs or classes that allow or encourage the parents to stay and participate. Some schools even offer “separation classes” where the parents may stay but have the option to leave. With some schools, you can even enroll your child later in the year if you feel your child needs another few months to mature.
You Know What’s Best
If you have decided now is the right time for your child to enter preschool, keep a positive attitude. Your child will look to you for cues and if mom and dad are excited, he will be, as well.
Ultimately, you know what is best for your family! Whether that is preschool or a homeschooling cooperative or waiting to begin formal schooling or something else entirely, have confidence that you are making the right decision for the family!
Well, I’m off to pack up backpacks and snacks! I’m curious to know: What advice do you have for moms prepping for preschool? KinderCarewill choose one lucky participant and make donation in their name to the Reach Out And Readchapter of their choice! I hope you will join in the discussion–I have hosted book drives for Reach Out and Read and cannot say enough about the work this amazing charity is doing!