Preschool is a time for a lot of new beginnings for a young child. There is a new environment, a new teacher, new rules and new friends. Following are tips from area preschool teachers on how parents can help their children adjust to preschool:
• One of the best things a parent can do is establish a consistent morning routine and do his or her best to stick to it. Change can be scary, but consistency helps a child feel safe. Parents might be surprised to learn how a child’s day can be thrown off simply by arriving to school late.
• Sometimes parents have to pick their battles. If allowing your child to wear his Halloween costume in April or to wear the same tutu over her pants every day means arriving to school on time and happy, go for it. Don’t worry about what the teacher might think. In fact, if a child comes to school in the same outfit day after day, the teacher will likely simply assume that he or she must really love it – and sympathize with the parent who has to wash the same thing over and over again!
• Remember to feed your child! Not all preschools have budgets for providing nutritious produce at snack time, and children end up eating processed foods like cookies and snack crackers. A protein-rich breakfast can provide a child with the energy and nutrients needed to play and learn.
• If your child is screaming and crying at drop-off time, give a warm hug and a kiss and be on your way. It’s hard to leave a child in distress, but prolonging a goodbye will only make things worse. Your child’s teacher has been trained to comfort and engage your child. With a consistent drop-off routine, your child soon will learn what to expect.
• If your child has a hard time taking a nap at school, ask if you can send a special blanket or toy to provide a sense of security.
• Does your child have a favorite TV show, song or character? If so, be sure to tell your child’s teacher so he or she can easily connect with your child and establish rapport.
• If there is something stressful or out of the ordinary in your child’s life at home – such as a new sibling, parents who are out of town, a recent move or the loss of a pet, for example – consider sharing that information with the teacher. Doing so can help the teacher better understand a possible change in behavior and be sensitive to the needs of your child.
According to early childhood educators, mastering specific social, motor and cognitive skills in preschool will ease a child’s transition to kindergarten. Outlined below are things kindergarten teachers will be looking for and things you can observe over the course of your child’s preschool experience.
“Kindergarten Entry Skills,” a survey published by the Early Childhood and Parenting Collaborative [McEntire, 2007], identifies a general range of skills and teacher expectations for children who are entering kindergarten.
Social skills identified in the survey include: functioning within a cooperative learning environment; working independently and cooperatively within large and small groups; attending to and finishing tasks; listening to a story in a group; following two- or three-step oral directions; taking turns and sharing; caring for his/her personal needs; caring for his/her belongings; following rules; respecting the property of others and routines; and working within time constraints.
Motor skills that kindergarten teachers specified as important include: mastery of many large muscle skills, such as walking, running and climbing; fine motor skills that require eye-hand coordination, such as using a pencil, crayons or scissors; and the ability to print his/her own name.
Kindergarten teacher expectations of cognitive skills include: the ability to discriminate between sounds and objects that are alike or different; knowing the names and sounds of letters and the names and quantities of numbers; the ability to sort and group objects by name, colors, shapes and sizes; recognizing his/her name in writing and knowing his/her address and telephone number; expressing himself/herself fluently using a variety of words, and having the ability to retell simple stories and maintain simple conversations.