Families often ask for information, books, resources on transitioning to preschool/a new class/kindergarten. Here are some thoughts we have found work well. The sites they are culled from are listed below. There are also some ideas and tricks we use in the first few days/weeks of school included to help smooth the transitions for both you and your child.
The most common challenge for kids is saying goodbye to their parents or having trouble separating. For some children this may be their first time out of the home or away from a well known caregiver (home daycare, grandmother, parent). Sometimes saying goodbye is a challenge for the adults as well. We know and understand it is hard to leave your child at school, as most of us have done it, too, at one time or another.
The first thing you have to do to prepare your child for this transition is to prepare yourself. Look within for whatever ambivalence you have about leaving your child, because he/she will pick up on those feelings. Try to allay your own concerns first by communicating with the school and talking to your friends and family. We know this can be a big step for you as well. Please know that we are very comfortable helping both you and your child start school successfully!
Some ideas to help in the move to preschool:
- As adults, we know what school will be like. Children do not. Explain to your child in simple terms what he can expect when he goes to school. Tell him that he will be away from you for a little while, but you will return to pick him up. Gently build excitement about school by telling him about all the new friends he’ll meet, the delicious snacks he’ll enjoy, and all the fun things he’ll learn and do.
- Prior to starting school, take your child to visit the classroom and meet the teacher anywhere from 1 to 3 times. Take advantage of any Visiting Days and Family Events ahead of time. Visits should be informal and casual so they seem just like part of the day.
- If there’s a way of having a playdate with one of the other children who will be attending the school, that’s great, because then the children can welcome each other when they begin school. Knowing how to share, take turns and cooperate with other kids are not requirements for entering school. But possessing these skills will make the transition easier for a child. If your child hasn’t had many opportunities to socialize with peers, you can help him learn the value of cooperative play by signing him up for a neighborhood play group or setting up regular playdates with his friends.
- At home, set up a pretend play area with a table, chair and rug. Use your child’s love of dramatic play to act out common school experiences such as circle time, story time, meeting, and snack time. You can pretend to be the teacher while your child and his teddy bears act as students or visa versa.
- Purchase any needed supplies together with your child. Allow them to get invested in their new adventure.
- Sometimes giving your child a transitional object, like a small family picture or a parent’s handkerchief or scarf that they can carry around with them all day will help them feel comforted. We also recommend small notes in the lunchbox – simple I Love You’s with a smiley face. If you leave home early before your child wakes up, leave an I Love You note by their pillow or cereal bowl.
- Start from the beginning by allowing your child to walk into school on their own two feet with their backpack on. It is very empowering to be the big kid coming to their own school. Drop offs will be easier if you allow them to feel like they own a part of the process, and we encourage them to leave school the same quiet and orderly way, jacket on and backpack ready. Smooth transitions at the end of the day are just as important and we will help with feeling comfortable because all the expectations between family and school are the same.
- Saying goodbye is the hardest part of transitioning to school. To ease your child’s separation anxiety, come up with a creative way to say goodbye. You and your child can create a secret handshake or a cool goodbye rhyme. We have “goodbye windows” at school where children can wave at you one last time before you leave. It need not be elaborate, simple is best.
- On your child’s first day of preschool, hang around for a few minutes and help him find an activity he enjoys. Once he’s engaged in the activity, say your special goodbye and head for the door. No matter how tempting, don’t sneak out. Once your child realizes you’re gone, he’ll be frantic. This will make him less trusting and clingier the next day.
- If your child starts to cry when you drop him off at school, resist the urge to swoop in and rescue him. This won’t help; it will only make separating more difficult. Leaving your child in a classroom while he’s kicking and screaming isn’t easy. It is very hard on you as well. Please know the teachers are used to this and will take very good care of your child. Feel free to call back in 30 or 60 minutes to check on them. We are always glad to do this. Going back will only encourage the outbursts to continue and possibly cause your child to lose confidence in his ability to stay in preschool without you.
Books and Resources
If you don’t have a library card, now is a great time to get one for both you and your child! The Sharon Public Library is right next door to us and several families visit after school each day for a new book to take home. It’s a wonderful treat for a child to be able to pick out their own book all by themselves. Appropriate books about transitions and school for preschoolers include:
- Time for School, Mouse! by Laura Numeroff
- Spot Loves School by Eric Hill
- D.W.’s Guide to Preschool by Marc Brown
- Corduroy Goes to School by Don Freeman
- If you Take a Mouse to School by Laura Numeroff
- Clifford’s First Day of School by Norman Bridwell
- The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn (a lipstick kiss on a piece of paper is a great transitional object!)
- Will I Have a Friend? by Miriam Cohen
- Going to Daycare by Fred Rogers
- Little Polar Bear Finds a Friend by Hans de Beer
- Best Friends for Francis by Russell Hoban
- Timothy Goes to School by Rosemary Wells
- First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg
- Froggy Goes to School by Jonathan London
Sites to explore other pre-kindergarten or kindergarten programs:
For those interested in another year before kindergarten, please check out these schools.
Is Your Child Ready for Kindergarten? Kindergarten Readiness:
Articles about keeping your children another year before Kindergarten: