Attending preschool is one of the major milestones in a child’s life but it is also the first step into an unfamiliar environment and this transition can be stressful for both parents and children. Educationist and founder of the TreeHouse chain of schools, Rajesh Bhatia offers a few suggestions that will ensure a smooth and enjoyable transition from home to an unfamiliar learning environment.
Prepare your child mentally Mental preparation is equally important for parents and children before a big transition. Since children can pick up non-verbal cues, it is important for parents to exude positivity and enthusiasm rather than anxiety about the idea of starting school. Pep talks to children about how the school can be a fun place with friendly teachers, lots of toys, and friends, will help and you can also show them videos or read books that portray schools as safe, nurturing, and stimulating places. Reassure them if they have separation anxiety and speak to teachers to convey any specific issues children may be dealing with.
Choose a preschool that suits your child The most important step you can take to ensure your child’s well-being at preschool is to choose a curriculum and environment that is well-suited to her/him and focuses on holistic development. Choose a preschool where the teaching methodology fits the needs and temperament of your child. A school that nurtures children with sensitivity while developing their cognitive, social, interpersonal, language, and numerical skills, will foster a lasting trust and love for learning in them. The TreeHouse playgroup, for instance, follows a Relationship Based Curriculum (RBC) to connect with toddlers. What makes RBC different from a regular curriculum is that it aims to create a safe and vibrant learning environment by building a circle of strong relationships between parents, teachers, and children.
Explore the school campus in advance Visiting prospective schools, meeting the teaching faculty, and exploring the amenities beforehand is absolutely necessary before you make a final choice. It is also a good idea to let the child interact with her/his class teacher and see the classroom before the first day at school to create a sense of ease and familiarity. This familiarisation trip to the school and communicating honestly with teachers about your concerns during open-house sessions will lay the ground for a relatively stress-free transition. When children are eased rather than forced into a new environment, they cope better and may even look forward to going to school excitedly.
Practice the school routine at home The rigours of an academic routine may impact children if they are unprepared. That is why it makes sense to introduce discipline and structure to your child’s life before she/he starts going to preschool. A designated time for waking up, regular bowel habits, a timely and nutritious breakfast, and doing basic conceptual learning mixed with playtime, lunch, and naptime will prepare them well in advance for their new routine at school. Lack of adequate sleep can make children cranky and irritable at school so sending them to bed early will make things easy for everyone at home and in school.
Inculcate independence early When children first start going to school, they are only familiar with the home environment where all their needs are instantly met. This may not be possible in a school and so it makes sense to instill a sense of responsibility and self-dependence in children by engaging them in chores like folding clothes and cleaning up after playtime or meals. Teach them to eat independently and neatly with a spoon and fork, to dress and undress themselves and tie their shoelaces. Also, let the children know where to put their school uniform and other accessories once they are back from school.