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It’s a new preschool year and you’re hoping it will be the best one yet for your child. Kids First’s Early Learning Support Specialist, Kirsty Gale, shares eight tips for getting your little one’s first days of kindy or daycare off to a great start.
1. Goodbye tears usually don’t last for long
Many children cry when their parents or carers leave them at preschool. This is a natural response for children when they are being left with unfamiliar people in an unknown space.
The good news is that your child’s educators are very used to dealing with children separating from their trusted grown ups for the first time. In fact, most of them have helped hundreds of children, year after year, for years!
Although it’s understandably difficult to leave your son or daughter when they are distressed, have faith that your child will settle and enjoy their day at preschool.
It is very uncommon for a child to consistently cry all day and usually by the time you’re back to your car, they will have stopped crying and have been distracted by all the children, educators and resources around them.
If things don’t get better after a reasonable period, your child’s early educators will be sure to give you a call to let you know.
2. Hanging around for too long makes it worse
As a new preschool parent, it’s natural to be tempted to stay, play and give your child ‘just one more kiss’ each morning in the hope that you will avoid an emotional meltdown – but trust me – when you prolong your goodbyes at preschool, you’re just making it harder for everyone.
Delaying your farewell makes it difficult for your child to transfer their trust to their early educator.
Your son or daughter will have their best chance to settle quickly when you escort them to an activity that’s taking place in the room or hand them over to one of their educators who will find something that’s interesting for them to engage with.
It’s really important to say goodbye to your child before you leave. Never sneak off because this will add to your child’s uncertainty and anxiety.
Rest assured that if there are any issues, staff will contact you to let you know how you can help.
3. “Best Friends” usually aren’t found in the first few weeks of preschool
Children under the age of 5 are usually more interested in play than people, and so if you’re expecting that your child will bond for life with one of his or her new peers when preschool begins, you’re probably going to be disappointed.
Children generally play with other children who are interested in what they are interested in.
It’s a moment by moment thing at this stage of their development, so if your son or daughter has not chosen a special playmate, there is nothing to be worried about.
There are lots of new experiences for your child to be exploring right now … don’t expect a best friend straight away.
4. ‘What did you do today?’
When you ask your preschool aged child what they did today at preschool, its highly likely you will get“nothing” as a response.
This is usually not because they don’t want to tell you, what took place at preschool but rather, the itty bitty details of the day are just not important to an active three or four year old who’s got other things on their mind by the time they get home.
These days, most early childhood settings have some form of communication or photo board that detail what your child’s group has done that day.
This doesn’t mean educators will have documented every step of your child’s day, but it may give you a few talking points to chat with your child about.
Instead of asking ‘What did you do today?’ you could say “I saw the dinosaurs and blocks in your room today, did you play with them?”
Prompting your child may jog their memory and open up lines of communication – because believe me, they have never done nothing during their busy preschool day!!
5. Label everything
When you take a look around your child’s preschool you’ll see LOTS of children exploring, learning and running around.
Every single child owns a hat, shoes, t-shirt, undies, socks, bag, drink bottle and so on.
If you want your child to come home with all of their belongings, please label them.
Also be prepared that even if your child’s things are labelled, it’s inevitable that something will be misplaced or accidentally go home with someone else at some point.
Generally they always find their way back… but without a label, retrieving them is an awful lot harder.
6. Preschool fashion doesn’t need to cost a fortune
While some little people are very fashion conscious, on behalf of the early educators of Australia, I beg you …..Please don’t let your children wear their favourite, most expensive clothes to preschool!
Preschool is a messy place. We play with paint, glue, mud, dirt, sand, scissors and slime… all things you don’t want in your house!
Make sure that the clothes your child is decked out in for preschool meet the ‘it doesn’t matter’ test. In other words, comfy clothes that you don’t mind getting dirty.
Coming home covered in paint or with shoes full of sand is a sign that fun and learning was enjoyed, and the last thing you need is for your child’s designer jeans or flower girl dress to be ruined.
7. Be kind to your child’s early educators
Your child’s preschool educators may have up to 30 new children starting in their group right now.
That’s 30 new family names to learn; 30 children’s routines, likes and dislikes to remember; 30 lots of bags, hats, shoes, lunch boxes and drink bottles to keep track of and 30 children to settle and involve in preschool group times and activities.
Be confident that, given a little time, your child’s educators and carers will get to know everyone.
Over the next few weeks and months, they will become a great resource for you and special people in your child’s life.
Even if things seem a little chaotic now, have faith that they will know all about the owners of drink bottles and hats that have gone AWOL (even if they don’t have names on them) so let your child’s educators do their thing and very soon, they will know your child well.
8. There’s nothing worse than an ambush at home time
Educators are usually very happy for you to talk to them about how to help your child at preschool, however there is a time and a place for everything.
Please don’t expect that a deep and meaningful discussion about your child’s behaviour, feelings or well-being can take place in the middle of busy drop off or pick up times when it’s not appropriate for educators to have private conversations of this kind.
The start and end of the day are critical times for educators. They are often occupied with settling sensitive children or simply ensuring that the right children go home with the right grown up and that no one’s baby brother escapes through the child-proof gate!
If you need to have a serious chat about something, don’t ambush the teacher at a time when they really can’t speak with you at length.
Make an appointment for a mutually convenient time so that your child’s teacher can focus on the individual needs of your child and family. T
his ensures that your concerns remain private and that your child’s confidentiality is respected.
It also means that educators can prepare for the meeting so that, if you are seeking information or support, they have time to gather the resources you need.
Teachers are on your side
The most important thing to know as the preschool year begins is that educators care deeply about your child and are on your side.
The beginning of the year can be tricky for little people who thrive on routine, but when you work in partnership with your child’s teachers, you’ll find that they can be staunch allies on whose insights and experience you’ll come to rely.
The good news is that this period of transition will pass, and soon your son or daughter will be on their way to becoming a confident, independent little person who is ready to take on the world.
All you need to do is seek advice when you need it and celebrate the little things – because after all, that’s what life with children is all about.
© 2020 Kids First Children’s Services
Does your child need help to thrive at preschool?
Kids First’s Early Learning Support Specialists, led by experienced teacher Kirsty Gale, help parents and educators meet children’s needs at preschool and school.
With a Masters’ Degree in Special and Inclusive Education, Kirsty has extensive training in developing practical strategies that work at home, in the classroom and in the playground.
To find out more about the services offered by our Early Learning Support Specialists, click on the link below, or call Kids First Children’s Services on (02) 9938 5419