Preparing for a new school year at any age can be equal parts exciting and exhausting. However, for first-time students entering preschool or kindergarten, the new experience can lend itself to creating more anxiety than anything else.
Here are a few tips and tricks for parents to help ease children through the transition from their bedrooms to classrooms.
• Set a school bedtime. School has a set start time every day, and for some little ones, not being able to sleep in or take naps freely throughout the day will be a huge change of pace. Sleep.org recommends that toddlers get between 11 to 14 hours of sleep to operate at their most productive level. Parents should plan accordingly to make sure that children go to bed early enough the previous day so that they’re waking up well-rested, not cranky, for school the following day. Aim for getting kids adjusted to their new sleep schedule at least two weeks before school starts.
• Visit the school in advance. Parents and their children can take a few preemptive trips to the new school prior to the first day. Talk with the school about taking a few hours to familiarize your child with the school’s layout. Also take some time to familiarize your child with the pick-up and drop-off areas, so that they’ll be familiar with the process and area before experiencing the first-day crowds. In case of separation, make sure the new student has a reliable phone number or contact person at the school they can easily get in touch with should they become lost or disoriented in the new setting.
• Encourage creativity. In addition to starter lessons in shapes, numbers and ABCs, preschool and kindergarten classrooms also call for students to unleash their imagination in various activities. From learning new artistic skills, playing new instruments and even socializing and public speaking, children will be exposed to a wider curriculum of set activities during their first years in a classroom. Parents can spark a child’s curiosity by encouraging them to try a wide array of hobbies before school begins. Something as simple as playing ‘Pass the Story’ during car trips, where each individual adds a sentence onto a story and passes it around until completion, will help keep a child’s brain sharp and creative while also promoting active engagement and focus.
• Turns errands into discoveries. When kids are still young, every new destination can be a learning experience. Parents can get children ready to learn by taking family trips to destinations like museums or zoos to spark a child’s intrigue about learning more about the world around them. Even a trip to the grocery store can be educational. Try asking little ones to differentiate between frits, vegetables, legumes and more. Or, try to encourage learning at a public park by teaching children to pay attention to different insects or wildlife species. Don’t be afraid to get creative. Incorporating learning opportunities into everyday situations will also help a child learn to see educational opportunities in more facets of life before even stepping foot in a classroom.