As a SAHM, I thought long and hard about sending my girls to preschool. On the one hand, I didn’t see the point. As a teacher by trade, I’m naturally encouraging their everyday learning and really did I want to extend their schooling unnecessarily. However, on the other hand as much as my girls were well socialised from our extensive toddler group tours, they had rarely been left anywhere without me. Without preschool, would school be scary and overwhelming.
In the end, after going back and forth, I opted to send them to a local preschool for one 3hr morning session a week. It’s not much but it works for us. They started the term after their third birthday when the funding kicked in so we didn’t have to worry about costs. Yet, I had plenty of other concerns. How to prepare them for this change and how to prepare myself?
Here are some tips to help the transition to starting preschool or any new childcare setting.
Although you are likely to visit the preschool to do an initial viewing and collect/drop paperwork, try to make these short visits count. Take your child with you every time. Before you go, explain that you are going to look at a new fun place with lots of toys and new friends. Point out anything that might interest and excite your child. Even the silly stuff like the colour of the door. All these tiny pieces and memories will help to reassure them on their first day.
Starting preschool can be exciting so get a new preschool bag to mark the occasion. Maybe go to the shops together to pick out a character or design they like. Let them help you to fill it with things they might need.
Books from the library
There are loads of books out there about starting preschool, nursery and school. By reading these together, you are sharing how their day will go. A new routine can be daunting but if it is talked about rather than sprung on them, they are much more likely to understand. Talk about the fun things children are doing in the pictures. Ask them if the children look happy or sad.
Talk to older children about starting preschool
If you know other children that go to a preschool or nursery, encourage them to talk about what they do. If your child doesn’t say much, ask for them. What toys do they play with? Is there a snack? Can you play outside? Hopefully their friend will add lots of fun details to get your child excited.
Talk about their key worker by name
Once you know their key worker’s name, try and use it in conversation. Jo would love that drawing. What colour do you think Jo would like? Let tell Jo about our trip. Every time you use their name, you child is reminded of the friendly person they know and they become more and more familiar.
Choose what’s right for your family
As I said above, I took quite some time to decide upon preschool. I know for many, you might not have the luxury of being so picky but try to do what is right for you all. If it’s a conscience decision, hopefully you’ll feel better when you drop them off.
Read the admissions pack
It’s probably long and boring but every setting is different and it’ll have lots of information you will need to know. Don’t forget to fill in all the forms and return these in plenty of time. On their first day starting preschool, the last thing you want to be thinking about is paperwork.
Make a note of the first few topics
Ask about the first few topics your child will be doing at preschool. These likely will have been planned at least for the next few months. This way you can plan other activities or outings to coincide if you choose. For example if their first topic is Transport, you could ride a bus and read a book about trains. This shows you value what they do at preschool and also sends them with things to talk about.
Check what they need
Now they have a lovely new bag, you need to fil it. The preschool will have a list of what you need but here’s what’s in our bag.
- Change of clothes (weather appropriate)
- Spare underwear x2
- Plimsols/indoor shoes
- Sun hat
However much you’ve prepared, starting preschool is a huge change and likely not to be a completely smooth ride. Here are some tips for dealing with the tricky times. Every child is different but this is what worked for us and as a teacher I know works best from the inside too.
Be ready for tears
Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security if the first session goes swimmingly. Remember they didn’t really know what was happening, maybe they hadn’t completely understood that you would be gone. The second time they will and so be ready.
At home they might say they don’t want to go, they may cry and say they don’t like it. Unless you have a heart of stone, that’s going to hurt. Try hard to be upbeat or just change the subject. There is no point getting upset on days they aren’t even going.
Get in and out
As tough as it might be to leave a sobbing child, this really is the best way. Try and make drop off as quick as possible while still giving a kiss and cuddle and telling them you’ll be back. They may try desperately to embroil you in conversation, asking questions or cling to you. The longer you stay, the more you are convincing them you might not leave.
With my girls, Emily was the one who cried and cried. Even though I knew what I had to do, it didn’t make it easy. For the first few sessions, I’d ring after twenty minutes to check she had settled. On every occasion she had.
Remember it will take time for your child to adjust to a new place and new people. They’ll need time to form relationships with the staff and build friendship. For us, as they only went once a week, this took longer than I’d expected. But looking back, it was no more than 10 sessions so the equivalent of two weeks if they went every day.
Did you send your children to preschool? What age did they go?