The first day at preschool or nursery school marks a significant transition for your family. To help both you and your child navigate this change, we have put together some advice which will help you begin your preschool experience with maximum success and minimum tears.
Before the First Day:
- Go Over the Schedule
Prepare your child for what they’ll experience at preschool. Be as detailed as possible, and explain these things to your child again and again.
- Adjust to the New Routine
Give your family a few days to get used to any new sleep schedule that preschool will require. Begin to get up at the time you’ll need to awaken on preschool days, and set — and keep — an appropriate bedtime for a good night’s sleep.
- Visit the Centre
Visit the preschool with your child at least once ahead of time. Having you nearby during the experience will give them a sense of security as they warm up to this new environment. But make sure to give them some space to explore on their own.
Some people advocate doing a practice day, a day prior to their official start. See if the preschool will accommodate such a request, allowing both parents and children to get a feel for what to expect.
- Trust Your Carer
Make sure that you trust the people who are taking care of your child. If you’re confident about the preschool and the carers, your child will also be confident. On the other hand, if you’re anxious, that will rub off on your child.
- Make a Special Purchase
Remember the excitement of getting a new outfit for the first day of school? A back-to-school gift is an exciting way to gear up for the first day. You can call this item the big boy backpack or big girl shoes and make them even more special.
The First Morning:
- Give Everyone Plenty of Time
Hurrying on the first day will make everyone feel stressed. Wake your child early enough so that they can adjust to the day before being whisked off into the car. Don’t rush in the morning.
- Send Something from Home
A special memento can help your child feel more comfortable in their new environment. You could pack a photograph of your family or a special toy that they can keep nearby in a pocket or the cloakroom.
- Help Your Child Settle in
Arrive at the centre early enough for you to have time to stick around for a few minutes. Let your child take you on a tour of the classroom when you drop them off. Let them tell you what they see. You could ask them: ‘Is there something you’d like to show me before I leave in five minutes?’ However, don’t linger; your goodbye should be short and sweet.
If you’re nervous you could call the preschool and check on your child. The facility should be more than happy to give you first day updates during the day.
- Start a Goodbye Routine
Establishing a very specific goodbye routine will help your child be more comfortable at drop-off time, so begin one the first day. For instance, you could park in the same area, enter through the same door, approach the cloakroom, hang the coat, check the job chart and comment on the day’s assignment, give two hugs and two kisses and say, ‘See ya later, alligator!’
- Spoil Yourself
After you drop your child off, treat yourself with a special breakfast treat of specialty coffee. Remember, this is a big day for parents, as well as children.
- Talk to Your Employer
The first week of preschool involves an adjustment for you, as well as your child. Make sure your employer is aware of your situation, because you might need a little extra flexibility in your schedule over the next few days.
Even if your child is upset, stay calm. A confident attitude will help reassure your little one that everything will be okay. Once you leave, don’t come back. They may cry for a while, but this is an opportunity for your child to bond with a carer. Plus, it will probably take only a few minutes for the crying to subside.
At the End of the Day:
- Arrive on Time
It’s very important to pick up your child right on time at the end of the first day, and by extension, every day they are there. It’s comforting for a child to know you will be there every day following a specific activity, such as afternoon snack time.
- Start a Going-Home Routine
When you arrive at the preschool, have your child show you around the classroom; ask them to show you something they did/made that day. Then give your child a sign that it’s time to wrap up the fun of preschool and head home. Use a fun indicator, such as a tickle on the neck and try to play games on the way to the car, like counting steps or cars.
- Give Your Child Something to Look Forward to at Home
Help your child transition to home time by talking about what you’ll do in the afternoon or evening. Mention something that your child can look forward to at home, such as reading the new library books or Granny and Grandpa coming over for dinner.
- Plan Extra Bonding Time
It is important to find extra time to bond with your child after pickup. With a baby, plan on extra snuggling or breastfeeding. For older children, consider visiting the library together or playing at the park.
- Validate Feelings
Despite your best efforts to make the day go smoothly, your child may still have some struggles with the new arrangement. Make sure you validate their feelings; for example you could reassure them: “It’s normal that you’re feeling a little scared, but you can get through this, and you’re going to be okay.”
In fact, your whole family is going to get through this just fine. From start to finish, your child’s first day at preschool can be a positive experience and the first of many happy times at your new childcare centre.