Changes are a big deal to little ones, whether they are a toddler heading away from their parents for the first time, a preschooler starting preschool or a Pre-K child switching to a new school. Kids are comfortable in routines and find security with expectations and repetitive schedules. That means, September can be overwhelming for children and their families as they embark on a new experience, starting at Pine Village. For us at Pine Village, we’ve seen ways that parents can help transition their little ones and help them feel comfortable starting school, so they are set up for success in the fall. We’ve put together a few of our top tips and also ways that we help our families transition into a new preschool setting. We are certain that these tips will help create excitement and help your child feel confident about starting at Pine Village!
Talk About What Will Happen
Children who have never been to preschool can’t imagine what it will actually be like. Without having that experience, they may be nervous about not knowing what to expect. Appease their fears by talking about it! Tell your child about all the exciting things they will do. Get books from the library about going to preschool. Go shopping together and pick out a new backpack and/or lunchbox. Talk to them about their teacher and new friends and assure them that they are in good hands and secure while you are away.
Plan a Visit
It makes sense that your child wants to see their classroom in advance to know what it’s like. Here are Pine Village, we encourage visits prior to a child’s start date whenever possible, although COVID has made this look very different than in previous years. Each director does this a bit differently and public health protocols require some flexibility in planning and expectations, but options range from individual visits in a classroom to a meet-up when the teachers and kids are out at a local park. At Pine Village, your visit is typically for about an hour and we encourage a parent or familiar adult to stay with the child during this visit to help them feel comfortable. That way, your child can get to know their new environment in a relaxed setting!
Shift into the New Routine
From summer to fall, your child may have to get up earlier, or perhaps they are not used to going to school all day. Instead of switching from waking up at 9am to 7am overnight, shift it gradually, so your child wakes up 15 minutes earlier every day so they are not completely groggy on Day 1 of Preschool. Even things like making sure they have breakfast and get dressed right away, rather than staying in their PJs til noon like they did in the summer should happen a few weeks prior to the school year start so your child can get comfortable shifting slowly into their new routine. And, if they are used to going 3 days to 5 days, be patient with them as they may be more tired than normal at the end of each day or on Friday after a long week.
Create a Book
One of things that we do unique to the Pine Village experience is our bilingual transition book. The Transition Book introduces children to their new school, includes schedules and an overview of the environment, as well as teachers and classrooms (if already assigned). It is a personalized and interactive book families can use with their child as a tool and allows the child to practice for and anticipate the first day of school. For new families beginning in September, the Transition Book is generally sent to parents by the middle of August. It is in PowerPoint format so parents and caregivers can read it with their children on the computer or print it out. We also have a Transition Book Template so you can copy and paste your own photographs. It is very helpful to children who need a little extra help with the morning routine and coming into school. If your school doesn’t have this concept, you could make one yourself by creating a short book for your child to read together about what to expect at school! Or you could create a short song to sing together to generate excitement about the beginning of the school year!
Develop Your Goodbye Routine
And finally, before you drop your little one off on their first day, it’s important to develop a goodbye routine. We suggest you role play at home before coming to Pine Village. Do you want to do two kisses, and a hug? Do you want to knock on the door after you say goodbye (ask how many knocks)? Do you want to do a high five and a hug? There are endless possibilities but we recommend giving concrete time frames (i.e. “One more book/puzzle and then it’s time for me to go.” instead of saying “5 more minutes.”) There may be tears and it may be challenging at first, but all of our teachers are well trained to help with the morning drop-off. We recommend you keep the goodbye short and sweet. Always say goodbye so they don’t feel insecure and reassure them that you will return.
As children begin their Pine Village or fall preschool experience, it’s important to remember that this can be a process and the most important thing is that the children become as comfortable as possible. Help your child learn their new routine and habits, teach them what to expect and assure your child of any doubts or concerns they may have. When a transition is smooth and children are excited to come to school, everything else flows.