7 steps to prep your mini-me for preschool

We have fuss-free tips to smooth your toddler’s transition to preschool as easy as ABC!

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When your kiddo starts preschool, you will likely be in an emotional tug-of-war. While you’re excited about the new experiences and friends he’ll make in preschool, you also feel apprehensive about how easily he’ll adapt to this new situation.

Depending on your peewee’s personality, he may be enthusiastic about going to preschool or feel fearful that he has to hang out with a bunch of strangers. Since this is a novel experience for him, you’d do well to take the trouble to ease your child into this brand-new environment during this transition period.

In the lead-up to your child’s first day of school, involve him as much as possible in the preparations, like:

* Letting him pick out a backpack he fancies Go shopping with him for his uniform, bag and water bottle. This items can give your little one something to look forward to.

* Labelling all his belongings Label his water bottles, pencil cases, bag and tell him about the importance of taking care of his barang barang.

* Figuring out how to get to school Map the route with say, Google, then head out on this “adventure” together.

Explain that while you know school is a big change for him, you have faith that he can do it because he is a big boy now.

Now that you’ve nailed the necessities, follow these tips to make the journey to preschool less daunting for your peewee (and you):

1) Watch your child’s behaviour
Your child may not be good expressing his emotions verbally just yet. So, look out for clues to his emotional and mental well-being by taking note of his non-verbal cues, such as being clingy, withdrawn or aggressive. These behaviours may only surface after the first day or week, so stay alert.

Also watch out for behavioural changes like whining and bugging you to dress him, even though he is capable of doing it on his own. This might frustrate you, but keep in mind that these regressive behaviours don’t usually last long. Stay firm and don’t feel pressured to give in. Explain that while you know school is a big change for him, you have faith that he can do it because he is a big boy now. Notify the teacher and get her to keep an eye on him. You might even wish to discuss with the teacher if you can anything at home to ease your child’s anxieties.

2) Attend “pretend” school together
Your pre-schooler is at an age where he learns better through play. So, dress up and indulge in a little pretend play ― by taking turns to be the teacher and the pupil. Be sure to re-enact the first day of school such as saying goodbye, singing nursery rhymes, reading stories and heading outdoors to play, as well as taking naps. This is the time to show him that preschool is a place of fun, games and learning. Says Daniel Koh, a psychologist at Insights Mind Centre, “Role playing can also let the child be able to learn basic communication skills, such as asking to go to the toilet or playing with others.”

3) Visit the school before the first day
Ayman Zaidi, a preschool teacher at Bright Kids School House, points out that uncertainty is the cause of all the anxiety on the first day of school. So, make it point to familiarise junior with the ocation and environment before his first day. Koh says, “It’ll be best to introduce the school, teachers, routines and tasks to your child before school starts, so that your child will be familiar with these things.”

Take a walk around the campus and point out where the toilets, classrooms and playgrounds are. Remember to ask teachers, too, for information on school programmes and activities. This way, you can field your little one’s school questions with confidence.

More helpful tips coming right up!

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4) Packing up after playtime
If you haven’t already done so, now is a good time to get your child started on chores. Koh states that simple tasks like keeping his toys after an activity ― a critical task he’ll likely have to perform in school ― can help him practise being responsible for his own things.

5) Prepare his favourite snack together
A preferred snack can give your child something to look forward to and soothe some nerves (do check with the teacher first if homemade snacks are allowed in school). Whip up his favourite peanut butter and jam sandwich or let him pick a dish he can prep with you. Packing these into an appealing lunchbox wouldn’t hurt either.

While you put together the snack, remind him about hygiene — he must wash his hands before and after eating! You should also talk about a regular school day and possible activities the teachers will get him to do. Ask him, too, about his feelings about school, making new friends and teachers. Tell him that it is normal to feel happy, sad, excited or even worried, especially when a person encounters something new. Citing your past experience may also help, as will encouraging him to feel good and confident about going to preschool.

“Routines are very important as it can instil safety and security as your child will know what to expect. It can also help them practise and get used to following steps and [build] discipline.”

6) Get into a routine
Following routines like those in school should help your child make the switch easier. Koh notes, “Routines are very important as it can instil safety and security as your child will know what to expect. It can also help them practise and get used to following instructions and [build] discipline.” Also, set aside time to read or draw with him, so that he’ll get used to sitting down to complete a task.

Learning how to get ready every morning is going to take some time, so be sure to “practise” before he starts school. Pretending that it is a school day, walk him through the steps of rousing, getting dressed and eating his breakfast before heading out. You don’t have to dress him in his school uniform, just pick a shirt that’s similar to what he has to wear to school. The idea is to get your sweetie used to the routine, so that, he’ll have no qualms getting ready when school starts.

7) Nip separation anxiety in the bud
Top on the list of most parent’s concerns is the dreaded goodbyes you’ll have to endure for at least the first couple of weeks. Ayman notes, “Children have separation anxiety because they are in a new environment, so it’s normal if they feel worried and scared.” She explains that it is important for you as parents to say bye to them. Don’t duck out of class, hoping your child won’t take notice.

Instead, have a “goodbye ritual” ready — a series of actions or an action you carry out before you part ways. Try these:

* Keep these rituals short A simple hug or a kiss is usually more than sufficient.

* Let him know what the after school plans are Instead of indicating a time, it’s best to refer to a specific event when you tell him when you’ll be returning to pick him up. Try “I’ll be back after lunch” rather than “See you later today.”

* Don’t linger after bidding your goodbyes Avoid hiding and trying to steal glances at your child!

Photos: iStock

Daniel Koh is a psychologist at Insights Mind Centre.

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