How To Guide: Preparing for Preschool and Daycare

Many child psychologists encourage parents to send their children to daycare and preschool. The classroom is an important place for children to learn social skills, develop their personalities, and acquire basic learning and concentration abilities. With so much to gain, parents can be confident that daycare or preschool is the right choice for their child.

How should you prepare for the big transition? It is a milestone for many parents.

Author of several books, including Ready, Set, Preschool! and Kindergarten Countdown, Anna Jane Hays is an expert in early child development with helpful advice for parents gearing up for the transition to daycare or preschool.

Preparing yourself for transition

Hays recommends that on the first day that you drop your child off at school, decide beforehand to leave quickly in order to allow your child to adjust. This abrupt separation can be more difficult for the parent than it is for the child! Be firm with yourself, remembering what is best for your child. But alongside that firmness, think of ways to be gentle with yourself. Try enrolling your child for half days for the first week. This will help you feel more connected as you accept the separation. It also provides a great opportunity to see for yourself just how much your child is thriving in their new school!

Make peace with yourself about a few realities: your child is going to have bad days. Olivia is going to come home crying one day because someone was mean to her. It will break your heart. Bear in mind that Olivia may also be mean to other children who run home crying. These are some realities that you can mentally prepare for now.

Preparing your child for transition

More importantly, however, are the crucial steps that you can take to prepare your child for their new routine.

1. Talk it over
Introduce the idea of daycare or preschool to your child with helpful, encouraging conversations. Let them know what to expect: new friends, new books, new toys. Accompany your child to the preschool or daycare for a few visits and explain these surroundings. Meet the teachers and, if possible, the children who will be in the same class. Your explanations and presence in this new setting will put your child at ease.

2. Teach important, small, specific skills
Your child needs some skills before joining a classroom of fifteen children with similar needs. Many parents fall into the trap of "helping" their young children with tasks. If Jacob takes a couple of minutes to put on his own shoes and you can accomplish the same thing in seconds, it seems helpful to just put his shoes on for him. But in preparation for preschool or daycare, your child is best served by acquiring self-sufficiency. Can your child use the bathroom on her own? A teacher can only fasten so many shoes, button so many pants after the potty, and zip so many coats. Make sure your child knows how to ask for help when needed, and simultaneously encourage her to try on her own. Your child's self-esteem will soar as she discovers her own capabilities.

3. Encourage more social experiences and self-play
You can get your child emotionally ready to learn in several easy ways. Arrange play dates for your child this summer so that they learn how to spend extended amounts of time with other children. Turn the TV off and encourage your child to self-entertain with looking at books, coloring, and playing with toys. Sign up for a class with other children where perhaps you are not in the room. Throughout your day, look for teaching opportunities that may demonstrate these new independent roles. Your child is constantly learning new behaviors and you get to play a primary role in that process!

4. Gear up together
"Don't just get everything ready yourself," Hays says. "Let your child pick their backpack and choose a special snack.” Your child’s participation this summer in preparing for school will build his excitement for this incredible adventure! It will also encourage his self-expression and sense of ownership. Why not shop for the right gear together and let your child choose his favorite Tot Cot Nap Mat pattern and Packie backpack?

Remember, you’ve got this. Before you realize it, your child will be begging to go to school! So enjoy your summer together and in the fall, you’ll be proud of all you did to prepare for this exciting new chapter!