Preparing Your Child For Preschool

Preparing Your Child For Preschool: Tips to Support the Transition

A new school year can be an exciting thing for children and their families, but with it comes a new environment, expectations, experiences, and schedules for all. Big transitions, or changes from one stage to another, can be especially challenging for young children. We’ve compiled a few tips to help ease the discomfort caused by these transitions.

Tips for Preparing Your Preschooler

The start of a new adventure like attending preschool might make your child excited or nervous and everything in between. Their feelings may also change moment to moment in the days leading up to the big day. As the expert on your child, you understand their temperament and how to address their needs. Here are a few tips on how to prepare your child:

Read together

There are many books out there that illustrate what to expect at school: what a classroom might look like, what happens in a day, how to build relationships with others, and what to do when the separation from caregivers feels overwhelming. Rosie Goes to Preschool is one that covers it all including potty time. Listen to it here or find it at your local county library.

Play pretend

Engage your child’s natural love of play and full imagination to work through school day scenarios like drop off, snack/meal time, interacting with others, and activities like circle time.

Visit the school

If possible, make a plan to visit the school before the first day. Many preschools will host an event in the days leading up the start of school to meet students and parents and help ease first day jitters.

Tips for the Parent

Let’s backtrack a little here. To have a first day, a parent must first select a preschool for their student. Parents will be looking for a program that suits their family’s needs, location, hours, and budget. It is important to connect with the staff of a potential school to ensure that it’s the best fit. You may want to write down your questions beforehand so as not to forget anything. Essential questions address the qualifications of the staff, schedule, fees, and how the staff will support your child’s development. Click here for a comprehensive list of questions to ask when finding a preschool (or child care of any kind.)

In terms of prepping your child once a preschool has been selected, check out one of our favorite resources, Zero to Three. They have excellent advice for taking care of your little ones including what to do in the weeks leading up to school, tips on the night before and how to say that first big goodbye. The goodbye may be an especially hard piece for both child and parent so it’s good to have a plan in place to handle the big emotions for this major milestone!

Tips for the siblings

The start of school affects everyone in the family. We’ve discussed ways to support the school goer, how to prepare as a parent, and now ways to help the younger sibling. Just like the child attending school, young siblings may experience a wide range of emotions from the sadness of separation to jealousy over not being able to attend themselves. One simple way to address these feelings is to first acknowledge what’s happening and the emotion it brings. Help a toddler understand what’s happening by saying something like, “Wow, it’s a big day. Your brother will be at school all day. This will be different for all of us and it might make you feel sad.” Engaging in intentional time together like one-on-one play or time outside may also be just the distraction they need. If possible, include younger children in the drop off and pick up routine so they can say goodbye, see where their sibling will be, and understand that they will be back.

We hope you and your family have a wonderful back to school season and enjoy these major events!

Additional resources

Financial assistance is available for qualifying families for certain preschools, care for younger siblings, or even afterschool care. Learn more about this financial assistance program from Child Care Resource Center.

San Bernardino County Preschool Services Department offers services that support families from prenatal care through 5 years of age. They have Head Start, Early Head Start, and State Preschool programs. Learn more about enrollment!

This school year also marks the start of California’s Universal Meals Program. This program, the first in the nation, will offer at least two free meals a day to all public school students TK-12th grade. All students are automatically enrolled in the program but are not required to participate. Check in with your child’s school for more details.

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