The first day of preschool is also the first day of the rest of your child’s school life. As exciting as that is, it can also be a huge transition for your child who has otherwise been spending all their time at home or with people that they already know, love, and trust.
Follow these tips to give your child a smooth transition to the more regimented – and adventurous, exciting, educational – life of school.
1. Expose them to the school frequently.
In the weeks leading up to the first day of school, gradually introduce your child to the school by taking him on school visits, asking what he thinks of the school, and introducing him to the principal, teachers, and other students at the school. Walking past the school regularly, pointing out the building and its features, and describing to him what he will do at school will help. The more familiar your child is with the school and its surrounding environments, the easier it will be for him to feel comfortable and adjusted in the new setting.
2. Do trial runs of the school commute.
This can be combined with school exposure, and is all part of the work of familiarizing your child with the daily routine of school. The commute can vary by day and time, so make sure you are doing some trial runs at the time of day when your child would need to travel to and from school. If he is going to travel with a nanny or other guardian, make sure they they come along for the ride, too, and maybe have them do some solo trial runs with your child.
3. Be excited about school!
Your enthusiasm for school will be infectious for your child. You can tell her all the fun activities and new friends in store for her, tell her stories of how much her older siblings and other friends she knows enjoyed starting preschool, and maybe even show her pictures of family members in their preschool uniforms. You know best how to get your child excited about something, and the more she looks forward to school, the easier it will be for her to take these first steps towards independence.
4. Adjust bedtimes gradually to get close to wake up time for school.
Young children might not be used to waking up early (and at a specific time) every day. Starting 1-2 weeks before the first day, gradually adjust bedtimes by 5-10 minutes and make sure your child wakes up increasingly closer to school time.
5. Get your child active and ready in the morning.
Practice the routine of getting ready to leave the house in the morning, including: showering, brushing teeth, getting dressed, eating breakfast, grabbing a backpack. And actually leave the house with your child to run morning errands to get them used to being active and productive in the morning.
6. Go back-to-school shopping together!
One of those morning errands can be going back-to-school shopping with your child. There’s a laundry things of list that you need to buy for preschool, including: shoes, clothes, backpack, lunch box, water bottle, etc. Make some outings out of it and get your child involved and invested in the prospect of going to school from the get go.
7. Put names on things together.
Work with your child to label all her belongings with her name. This is a really fun activity that will get even the most hesitant of children truly excited about school. You should probably write or print her name in your adult handwriting, but your child can help put stickers and labels on everything!
8. Pack the backpack together.
Make sure your child’s backpack has all the essentials – snack, change of clothes and underwear, jacket or sweater for temperature changes, diapers if necessary, and a special something that brings your child comfort, like a favorite blanket or a family picture. Make sure everything is labelled, and practice opening and closing the backpack with your child. Bonus Tip: You’ll want to check and pack your child’s backpack every day, since kids tend to hide all sort of things in their backpacks!
9. Pick out an outfit (or two) together.
On the night before, lay out a couple of options for clothes for the big day. If he has a uniform, iron and lay out the uniform before bedtime. For some children, this might be the first time they are wearing a little tie, and they will be intrigued! You’ll be surprised how excited children can get about being “grown up” by wearing a uniform. Bonus Tip: Put together a spare outfit to keep at the school for emergencies!
10. Check for lice.
This is one of those unfortunate incidents that are best avoided. Check your child’s hair for lice every day, and take precautions to prevent them from contracting lice. Children should wear their hair short, or if it is long, tie it back in a bun or braid, and oil/gel or use a rosemary spray if possible to give your child’s head a protective coating against lice.