After careful consideration, you've decided your child is ready to start preschool. You've done your research and chosen a school that you think is best suited for your child. Now all you have to do is sit back and wait until back-to-school time rolls around, right? Not quite. Before starting school, now is the time to prepare your child for preschool and make sure that she's skilled in some basic lessons that will help ensure she gets the most from her first school experience.
When checking out prospective preschools, you need to ask where they stand on kids in diapers. Most prefer that children are potty trained, but some don't mind if the children are at the very least on their way to being trained. In any case, if your child is already potty trained, it's important that she feels confident in her bathroom skills. Can she go to the toilet by herself? Does she know how to wash and dry her hands when she is finished? Can she pull up and button her own pants? To foster a sense of independence and confidence, encourage your child to complete a bathroom routine on her own, being on hand in case they need you.
Going to the bathroom while at school can cause anxiety for many young children, especially if they haven't been away from home a lot or used a public bathroom frequently. Children between the ages of 3-5 still don't have complete control over their bladder and still are prone to having an accident, often because they get so caught up in whatever it is they are doing that they ignore the signals. Although the teacher will likely ask students if they need to go to the bathroom at fairly regular intervals, you'll need to teach your child to recognize when she feels she has to go. Also let her know that it is OK to ask the teacher to use the restroom, either by approaching her or raising her hand.
If by some chance your child does have an accident or is concerned about having one, tell her not to worry. Explain how these things happen to everyone and that the teacher is there to help her.
Related: Preschooler Self-Care Skills
How to Get Along Without You
This isn't really an issue for kids who have been in daycare or another organized activity where parents aren't too involved, but for kids who are at home all day, this can definitely be a concern. It will be much easier for your child to adjust to preschool if he's used to being left with others. Start off easy -- leave him for an hour with someone he is familiar with -- a grandparent, favorite relative or friend -- building up until he's spent the whole morning or afternoon with someone other than you.
No matter how OK your child is with spending time away from you, it's important to note that many kids do go through an adjustment period at preschool when they are being left with someone they don't know. Trust your child's teacher to help him get through this time. This is a situation they handle every year and are quite skilled in it. If you have concerns before or after the school year begins, address them right away with the teacher or administrator.
Eating On Her Own
Even if your child won't be eating breakfast or lunch at preschool, chances are she will be served some kind of snack. Whether you send the snack in yourself or if it is provided by the school, you may want to practice with your child some table-time skills such as putting a straw into a juice box, opening a plastic container or zippered bag and wiping her mouth and hands with a napkin while she eats. These practice sessions will also let you see your child in action so you can pack her snacks or lunches appropriately with items that she can open on her own.
If your child is eating a meal at school, find out if she needs to know how to use a fork and knife. You may want to review some basic table manners as well. No matter what, make sure the preschool teachers and staff members are aware of any food allergies your little one might have and make sure she is aware of what foods she cannot have.
Basic Social Skills
Aside from preschool itself, it's likely your child has lots of questions about who will be there with him. And although saying "You are going to make so many new friends!" sounds reassuring, a young child may not know exactly what that means or how they are going to do it.
Talk to him about how everyone might be a little uncertain the first day. Relay an instance from your own life about how you were nervous about meeting new people and even try a role playing game where he can practice approaching a new face. You may also want to brush up on his social skills by inviting other friends over for playdates or hitting the local playground to see your child in action with other kids his age. Talk about what good friends do like sharing and cleaning up. Heap on the praise when your child engages in good behavior such as not tattling and not having a temper tantrum when things don't always go his way. Explain how this makes you happy and it will make his new friends and teacher happy when he does that at school.
How to Ride the Bus
It's big and yellow and noisy and it is going to take your child away from home. It's easy to see why kids might not be so found of the school bus, but if your child needs to ride one to and from school, you'll want to get her used to it now. Check in with the preschool to see if they offer practice rides and be sure to take full advantage of them. If you have public transportation in your area, try taking a quick trip on one of those buses. It might not be exactly the same as what your child will ride on, but will certainly offer a close experience.
Make sure to visit the bus stop before school starts and do a rundown of bus safety. Find out if she'll need to ride a seat belt and talk about what will happen once she gets on the bus and what she needs to do once she gets off. It's likely that your child's teacher will review all of this on the first day or at an orientation program, but to ease any fears your child may be having, it's a good idea to go over it before she starts.