After twenty years in early childhood education, I have seen so many “first day of preschool” tears, frightened eyes and long waves’ goodbye.
Mostly, these heartbreakingly sentimental moments – come from the parents. The preschool transition for so many parents is a very hard one to make!
For some, taking their child to preschool seems “too early”. Others may feel like preschool is nothing but glorified babysitting. It’s not! Preschool, is amazing! Children who attend a good preschool have a stronger vocabulary, better understanding of math, and more social skills. Preschool sets the stage and gives our children a solid foundation into the world of education. But it also allows educators and professionals to work with and help your child before Kindergarten. Preschool is exactly what it says, pre school.
So how do we get there? How do we get parents past the reluctance? We have to empower more parents to know that you are not alone. We are in this together. Here are some tips on how to give your child the preschool edge, and yourself a little edge, too.
Take your time and find the school that both educates and engages you and your little one.
Although preschool is an exciting time in your child’s life, it can be a very stressful time for you. As a parent myself of four, I know a lot of parenting firsts are required. We have to hit the ground running to find a licensed childcare center that can ease our apprehension. And we all care about the educational aspect of it, but more importantly when it comes to “taking care of our babies” we are looking for a school that gives us that warm fuzzy feeling. From the moment we get to the door, we want to know that this program will be the right program for our little one. Ask Questions. Do your research. Inquire about the academics but also the arts and daily activities that your child would enjoy. Ask about their policies and procedures. How many staff assigned per child? It is the staff’s job to show you why their school is the best for your child. And if you can, visit more than one school. You will surely find the right one.
And then, you have to let go, just a little bit.
Once you have secured an early childhood center and feel comfortable with the program, you have to work on your fear of leaving your little one there. In order to do that, parents we must have confidence in the program and the teachers we have chosen. Provide the center Director, teacher and staff with all of the information they need to take care of your little one and then, let go just a little. Parents, it’s OK to cry and call a million times, so long as you enroll then in a program that meets your standards. Trust your instincts! It’s OK to spend some time with your child in the new environment, but try not to let them see your fear. Don’t let your apprehension get in the way of their progress. If you show confidence, they will be confident too. Remember, it is a change for them as well.
Now it is time to change those pre-preschool habits.
Right now, your child’s pre-preschool habits may not be best for early morning check ins You will have to start an earlier bed time a few weeks before school starts, to get your child adjusted. It is important that your child have a good night sleep and a great breakfast before school. The adjustment for your little one may be hard, but it is better than them being tired and sleeping in school. Set some rules and let your child know they are “school rules”.
You’ll see their self-esteem grow.
Good early childhood programs give preschoolers an opportunity to build self-assurance and self-esteem. Children also learn important social skills; that we have to wait our turn, share, and play with others. They may possibly make new friendships that can last a lifetime. It is an honor to watch our preschoolers grow into their own individuality. Preschool is a great time to learn just how smart and amazing your toddler is. In our center, One Step Ahead in East Orange, NJ, we offer a wide array of arts, culture and culinary classes to help our students to discover their talents. Some of our children have even become paid performers! Look for schools that have opportunities for your child to discover their talents, and find ways to nurture those talents as they grow.
Your child will have fun.
A great preschool experience will allow your child to learn in a fun and engaging way. A strong educational program brings learning to life through laughter and interactive play. Preschool providers have a gift of teaching children when they don’t even know that they are learning. Most children have more fun in preschool than they do at home! And you will find great joy in seeing them come home excited about all they have learned.
Parents, your feelings of anxiety around preschool are perfectly normal. They come from LOVE. You know that your child deserves every opportunity to become their best little selves. Give them the early edge. Enroll your child in preschool using the tips outlined above and watch their “edge”, and yours too, develop. Both you and your little one will be one step ahead.
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