Prepping for Preschool – Tips for Parents to Encourage a Happy Transition 

As the all-too-brief summer holidays end and the autumn term finally begins, families will be preparing their little ones to make the big move to preschool or nursery this September. It goes without saying that your child’s first day at preschool can cause conflicting emotions for both you and your child. But after the national lockdown severely disrupted the usual social opportunities that young children are exposed to, it’s understandable that you may be more worried about how your child will fare venturing out into the big world without you.

With more than a quarter of parents saying they are less able to deal with their child’s general anxiety now than before the pandemic, if your child is starting nursery this autumn, Tamsin Brewis, owner of local baby swim school Water Babies Bucks and Beds, is sharing her top tips with us on how to make sure that the transition to early years education is a smooth and happy one.

1. A positive outlook

Starting something new can spur on a multitude of different emotions for our little ones, so reassure your child that it is normal to feel anxious, worried or excited. This can be an overwhelming time for both you and your child, and you mustn’t forget to acknowledge your own feelings of ambivalence. Our children often take cues from us, so if they see we are worried about them starting preschool then they will pick up on this. If you are positive about the experience and show your child that you believe in them, they’ll start to believe it too. 

Using positive buzzwords such as ‘exciting’, ‘fun’ and ‘happy’ when discussing preschool with your child will inspire them to have a positive outlook on the experience. 

2. Establish your new routine

An established routine can help your child feel safe and secure, especially when things around them are changing. By creating a daily routine, children know what to expect and can feel a sense of control and fulfilment when they complete tasks throughout the day. A few days before the first day, start to make necessary changes in you and your child’s routine to ease them into their new normal. 

Our children learn best when routines and daily schedules are established, so developing a daily schedule will not only make you and your child’s life less stressful in the run-up to preschool, but it will benefit your child’s cognitive development too.

3. Visit the preschool

Try and familiarise your child with their preschool before their first day. Many preschools allow parents to bring their children in for settling-in sessions to have a look around their new classroom before their first day and avoid any surprises. Exploring the classroom and meeting the teacher will mean you and your child will know what to expect and will allow you to gauge how they are feeling about their new surroundings and prepare for how they might react on their first day.

4. Make it fun

By giving your child the chance to have fun whilst learning some of the skills they will need at preschool at home first, they will go into their first day more willing and better prepared. Playing games, acting out some nursery activities and reading books about starting school are all engaging ways to introduce your child to what to expect when starting this autumn.

This will subsequently encourage your child to think of preschool as a fun place and not a scary one.

5. Make time on the weekends

As starting preschool can be a stressful time for you and your child, it’s important for you to take time out on weekends and plan fun activities that provide the whole family with something to look forward to. If you already have a usual weekend routine, then this is important to maintain as this familiar structure will provide your child with some sense of security and consistency whilst they become accustomed to their new routine at preschool.

6. Plan your goodbye

It’s natural for you and your child to suffer from separation anxiety during the first few weeks of preschool. There may be a tear or two, but remember to stay positive so that your child doesn’t pick up on any fears or anxieties that you may have. Stay with your child for 10 or 15 minutes on their first day and point out activities around the classroom that will encourage them to get involved and make friends.

Make sure your goodbyes are short and sweet and leave with a matter-of-fact but positive attitude. Let your child know how long you’ll be staying whilst they settle in, so it’s not a surprise when you leave, and reassure them that you’ll be back to pick them up at the end of the day.

It’s completely natural for both you and your child to have the jitters before the first day. Starting preschool or nursery is a major milestone for their development, and after months of disruption to the usual ways in which children would normally be introduced to social environments, starting nursery is many children’s first experience of being away from home and making new friends. But with a little preparation, the transition can be a confident and happy one for both of you.

Brenda Berg

Brenda Berg is a professional writer with over 15 years experience in business management, marketing and entrepreneurship. Consultant and tutor for college students and entrepreneurs. She is passionate about covering topics on career, self-development, writing, blogging and others.