Top Ten Tips for the Transition to Preschool
- Going to school is a parent's decision, not a child's. Don't ask,
"Do you want me to sign you up for school this fall?" or "Do you
want to go to school today?" However, be sure to listen to your
child's questions and concerns. Reassure him/her and share your
excitement about this transition.
- Help your child become familiar with the school before he/she
actually begins attending. Take walks through the school neighborhood.
Point out the entrance and playground. Talk about drop off
and pick up routines, and let your child help you plan your daily
goodbye ritual: perhaps 4 kisses, plus a "bonus kiss" for later.
- Practice "school time." Learn how much time you'll need to get
ready each day; feeling rushed only adds to the anxiety. Practice
eating breakfast and going to the bathroom on a schedule. Each
afternoon or evening, prepare for the next morning: help your
child choose appropriate clothing, a snack, lunch, a show-n-tell
item, etc. Adjust evening and morning routines as necessary so
your school departure runs smoothly.
- Make an "event" of purchasing or creating your child's own
calendar. A calendar will help your child understand the often-confusing
concept of school days vs. non-school days. Add family outings,
doctors' appointments, birthdays, and so on to the calendar,
and your child will see that school is just one more part of life.
- Expect a reaction . . . or a delayed reaction. Whether this is your
child's first, second, or third year of preschool, there are adjustments
to be made. And he/she may be so excited about school that
other emotions remain hidden for several weeks. This commonly
occurs after a school vacation, when your child has been
reminded of what it is like to be home.
- A child is best served when parents and teachers work as a team.
Talk to your child's teachers about his/her adjustment to
preschool; home reactions may vary from school reactions. (Rely
on the teachers, not other parents, to assess your child's transition.
Each child is unique.) And make time to be involved; your
child gains much support and pride when you organize a field trip
or read during storytime.
- On the way to school, generate excitement about the day to come
by being curious about things that can only be answered by your
child's attendance. "I wonder-will you be painting or using scissors
today?" or "Don't forget to check on the polliwogs-they're
- Be on time for drop off and pick up. It can be hard to be the last
to arrive and the last to leave. In between, make the time you
spend away from your child sound unexciting.
- Expect fatigue. Being without you and with fifteen or more other
children for several hours is exhausting. Don't expect your child to
be able to run a bunch of errands on the way home, and during
this time of transition, don't fill the calendar with playdates.
- While you are looking forward to hearing about your child's day,
he/she may not be able to share with you immediately. Some children
need time to assimilate an experience before they talk about
it, and others think of school as "their own" and put up a wall of
privacy. Be patient. You can always talk to your child's teacher for
the inside scoop.
Roxy Leeson was a preschool director for over twenty years. She is
a Freedman Center Presenter and Early Childhood
Consultant, and the mother of two grown daughters.