Prepare your child for their first day

We’ve given you some tips to calm your nerves in our previous blog, but how can you get your little one ready for their first day? Separation anxiety can be stressful for both of you so prepare your child as best as you can with our advice.

Familiarise them 

When you’ve chosen your school, bring your child with you for a tour and point out the classroom that they’ll be in, meet the preschool teacher, show them where they’ll put their bag as well as the amazing play areas they’ll soon be able to explore. When you’re back home, talk them through what they can expect during their day, what they’ll play with and when you’ll be picking them up afterwards. It might also help to read them a book about pre-school so that they can get even more comfortable with the idea – and perhaps even excited!

Express emotions

Encourage your child to express how they are feeling about beginning preschool – are they excited or perhaps a little unsure or nervous? All of these emotions are, as you know, incredibly normal so acknowledge how they are feeling and let them know that they can always share with you. 

Bring something from home

Whether it’s a picture of the family for older kids, or something such as a blanket or an item of clothing that smells like mom or dad, this is a great item to pack if your child needs an extra bit of comfort in their first days of pre-school. 

Stick around

On their first day, adjust your schedule so you can be with them for the first 15 minutes or so. Help them to meet new children, show them around and introduce them to their teacher – then, when it’s time to go, say goodbye (read about our recommended goodbye routine here) and let them know you’ll be back to pick them up at the end of the day.

Connect with the teachers

This will be a big adjustment for both you and your child, so it’s normal for there to be anxiety – however, if your child is struggling to say goodbye then contact their teacher for advice. They’ll be well-versed in the process, and with their experience – and their interactions with your little one – they’ll be able to help make the transition easier.

Get over your nerves!

So, you’ve weighed up all the options and have chosen a preschool that you love. But now you’re feeling anxious about the looming first day of preschool on the horizon! It’s very normal to be nervous about being away from your little one for the day – after all, you’ve been their sole support for many months by this stage. However, your child will pick up on your stress and anxiety, so it’s important to stay calm before sending them to preschool. Here are a few suggestions from the @Sandton Kids team on what you can do to steady your nerves before the big day.

Groundwork

You’ll have visited the pre-school before deciding that it’s the right fit, so get all the info you need on their security practices, what they do if there’s an accident or health emergency, and how you can stay in contact during the day. It helps to have all this information up-front rather than trying to find it out on the day. 

Checklist

While you’re checking in with the pre-school, ensure you know exactly what your child needs to bring with them every day. Create a checklist that you can run through and ensure that everything from dummies and bottles to jackets, hats and sunscreen is packed the night before. This will not only help you feel a little bit more in control of the situation, but it also means you’ll be calm and prepared for the big day.  

Social skills

In the run-up to their first day, help your child to socialise through playdates or group activities. It’s good to get them used to being in a group so they can start building the social skills they need, including collaborative play and sharing with others. This will not only help them make friends quickly in their new school, but it’ll also ease your mind as you see them get to grips with new settings. 

Say goodbye

Create a short but sweet goodbye routine for you and your little one so that they know what to expect and that you will return to collect them at the end of the day. Whether it’s a hug, high-five or a saying, ensure that you do this every day as you drop them off, with a teacher there to provide comfort if they cry. It might be tempting to sneak out so that leaving doesn’t become a ‘big thing’ but both you and your child will appreciate this stress-free routine. 

Keep it together

As we’ve said, children will pick up when you’re stressed, anxious or sad – try to relax and smile with confidence while dropping them off and waving them goodbye. Understand that this is a natural part of parenthood that will not always be easy, but will be for the best. 

Don’t imagine the worst

After you’ve dropped off your child at preschool, don’t assume that they’ll have a terrible time and struggle to adjust. While it might be strange at first, your child will adapt quickly and be kept occupied by qualified teachers who are very used to looking after little ones. Focus on the amazing things that your child will experience, the positive ways in which they’ll grow and develop, and the interesting stuff they’ll learn about. Remember that your anxiety might just become their anxiety when they think about leaving you, so be positive. 

No matter what developmental level your child is on, if they’re in the right school with the right teachers, they won’t get left behind – they will learn at their own rate and thrive. Pre-school is an important space for them to be in as they pick up their social skills, develop motor skills and, most importantly, have a day that is filled with stimulation. 

Choosing a Pre-School

When it’s time for your little one to go to pre-school, how do you decide which school is going to be the best for you and your child? There’s plenty that goes into making that decision, and as it’s a space that your child is going to be spending a lot of time in, you want to make sure that it’s a good fit. Here are some of the things to keep in mind.

The basics

First things first, look at your budget and work out how much you can afford to spend per month. Consider your work needs and how many hours your child should spend at their preschool – will a half or full day work better? Location is also a big factor – how will your child get to and from preschool and would it be preferable to be closer to home or to your office? Another consideration to include is whether you’ll have time to prepare breakfast, lunch and snacks for your child every morning, or if a creche that includes these would be preferable. Lastly, ask for referrals from paediatricians, friends and family for preschools that they recommend and the type of education environment that they think would benefit your child. 

Pay them a visit

Once you’ve put together a short list of preschools that meet your basic criteria, it’s time to visit them and get a feel for each school. Is it clean and hygienic or messy and chaotic? Are the teachers warm and welcoming? As you walk around, take note of the size of the classrooms and play areas – what are the facilities like and are there enough toys and educational items to play with?

Engagement

Look at how the teachers are interacting with their students. Are they positive and engaging? Do they ask questions and genuinely listen to kids’ answers, or are they dismissive? How do they resolve conflicts – is there any form of punishment or discipline, or are children guided through the conflict resolution process? Is the environment quite strict or is active free play and stimulating activities encouraged?

Curriculum

Enquire about the teachers’ qualifications. Do they have basic training in courses such as first aid? What curriculum does the school offer and is it accredited in any way? It’s imperative to know how your children will be spending their day – will teachers be taking an active role in their education or will children be left to their own devices in front of a TV? We suggest looking for a pre-school that offers rich content, hands-on learning and play that is appropriate for your child’s development. 

Extras

Lastly, find out exactly what is included in the fees. Will the monthly costs and registration fee cover items such as stationery and extra-mural activities? Are there any add-ons such as swimming or language lessons, or an outdoor play area that will benefit your little one and make their world a richer one? It’s also worth clarifying how you will be able to communicate with the pre-school – how will you to be kept up to date with their day-to-day activities and progress in the long-run, and will you be notified about their diaper changes, meals and nap times?

While there are many factors in choosing the right pre-school and creche for your child, it’s an important decision that has long-lasting ramifications not just on your child’s development, but also your peace of mind as a parent.