One minute you’ve got yourself a tiny baby and in the blink of the eye they have turned 3 years old. Then, in the term after their 3rd birthday, you may well be sending them to pre-school. Your little baby has now grown older and is ready for more! Little C, who seems to not be so little these days, started pre-school last week and even though she was more than ready, I have taken a little longer getting used to it. So how do we as parents prepare ourselves and your child for the transition to starting pre-school?
Talk about the new routine
The best thing to do to prepare your child for pre-school is to talk about the change and what is going to happen. A favourite book of ours is ‘Goat goes to Playgroup‘ by Nick Sharratt which documents Goat’s day at nursery and what he gets up to. We have also been watching CBeebies, which have a lot of programmes featuring pre-school and school days. This helps to promote discussion about what they can expect. We have had lots of discussion about learning to read and write, all the new toys, playing with new friends. There is also the excitement of snacks in a new environment – why is it always about the snacks?
Plan your week
We have had a semi-casual weekly routine for quite a while incorporating lots of free play, toddler groups, park visits and playdates. However, the introduction of 15 hours a week at pre-school has altered this slightly. I’ve planned her hours around her favourite activities such as dance and drama classes and the occasional toddler group, and also left time for playdates with her friends. We have found we’ve had to make a more concerted effort to wake up and get dressed in the mornings. Before pre-school we were leaving the house at about 9.30 a.m and now we must leave at 8 a.m! Having bags packed ready to go, and breakfast cereals and fruit handy has been useful.
It may be an idea to schedule your sessions/hours according to what you feel is best for your child. We’ve decided to go for: 3 x morning sessions, 1 x all day and 1 day off per week. She enjoys the full day, especially eating lunch with her peers, but it is a long day. It is nice to ease her in gently before she starts primary school, yet balance this with time to enjoy play and being with her friends and family.
Visit the setting for settling in sessions
It is wise (and probably something that most settings offer anyhow) to visit the pre-school/nursery for settling in sessions. These provide an opportunity for the child to get used to his or her new environment so it’s not such a shock when they start for real. It also gives you an opportunity to view the pre-school/nursery on a typical day, meet the staff and see how your child may fit in. It also gives you the chance to ask any questions you might think of – in terms of what they do for the child’s development, how they deal with eating habits, toilet training etc.
Adjust to the new routine
It might take a few weeks to get used to the new routine, for all of you! Ensure you give yourselves plenty of time in the morning. Having breakfast, washing and getting dressed and also doing the school run can take more time than you imagine. Leave plenty of time so none of you feel rushed.
Your child may be extra tired for the first few weeks whilst they’re getting used to the new routine (with the possibility of extra exhaustion related tantrums!). Go easy on them, give them praise, rest, adequate healthy snacks and work out what works best for you.
Don’t linger at the door when it’s time to say goodbye
Separation anxiety can be an issue for parent and child. One way of making this easier is not to linger at the nursery door when it’s time to say goodbye. Easier said than done sometimes, I like to make sure she’s got everything and is ready for the day ahead. However, sometimes it’s best to not make such a big deal of the goodbye and kiss and go. We’ll see how we go with this one!
Send in a familiar item from home
Sometimes it’s nice if your child can take in a familiar item from home. Little C’s item of choice was her toy baby monkey (pink, cuddly and fluffy of course). As long as you make sure that it’s adequately labelled (like everything you send in with them to pre-school), it has a good chance of being kept safe. We recommend using sticky name labels from My NameTags. Easy to use and very colourful! I’d probably be tempted not to send in the best cuddly toy in though just in case. Having something familiar which smells of home and reminds the child of their home can be a great comfort. I also notice Little C talking to Pink Monkey every now and then too, so cuddly toys can make great confidantes too.
Plan something for yourself during your time apart
Separation anxiety can be quite an issue. This applies to working parents, stay at home parents or those who are a mixture. Little C is no stranger to nursery. She started at 11 months old, when I went back to work part-time in an office-based job. She was there for about a year and a half, so was well used to the routine. It is only the last 6 months or so that she has been full-time at home with me. Luckily, she was more than ready to start pre-school for the extra stimulation, learning and also friendship-forming, so she has taken to it like a duck to water. I, on the other hand, have been slightly sad to be apart from her. On the flip side though, I have a little more time now to dedicate to work, household chores and self-care whilst she learns and socialises so it is not all bad.
Utilise your time wisely
It’s only early days, but I have soon learned that 15 hours does not go a long way. I feel that I will probably dedicate certain days/times to the chores and blog / social media work, and leave some for free-time to plan fun activities for Little C to enjoy and also time for myself. Last week I went food shopping by myself for pretty much the first time in three years, I will definitely be doing this again! It may be nice too to have some relaxation time (that isn’t the magic 9 pm hour!) in between when time allows.
Don’t dwell on how your child is getting on
We have an app that we can log in to with the new pre-school and it is so tempting to keep checking this for updates! I wonder every hour about what she is doing. Who is she playing with? Has she friends? Is she happy? Does anything trouble her? Is she drinking enough? However, all this worry is counter-productive. I should just keep an open mind that she will settle in better than I imagine. Communication with the staff at pre-school is essential, and they they should be able to give you a good idea of how your child is on a day-to-day basis.
Enjoy bonding time with your child
Once you’ve picked up your child from pre-school, enjoy some extra bonding time now you’ve been apart. Talk about their day – what they enjoyed, what they didn’t enjoy so much. Ask about their likes, dislikes, hopes, fears and what they are most looking forward to. Sometimes, it feels like a hard task getting your child to actually say what they’ve been up to during the day and how they’ve got on. You can try asking open ended questions to make this easier, some examples are below:
- What was your favourite part of the day? Why?
- What was the funniest part of your day?
- What makes your friends nice?
- Tell me about the books you read at pre-school?
Giving your child the chance to try and elaborate on their day can be rewarding and very insightful. However, don’t go overboard with the questioning, we find that she speaks about pre-school when she is ready.
Have you reached the all-important milestone of starting pre-school? If you have, congratulations and if you are yet to, then all the best for a smooth journey. It truly is a wonderful time and an excellent way of getting them used to being in the education system whilst learning, having fun, playing and socialising at the same time. What tips would you add to the list above? Comment below or join in the conversation on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. All the best for the new adventure!
(Note: This blog post contains affiliate links, however all views and opinions are my own.)