8 ways to prepare your tot for preschool

preparing for preschoolBy Tori Mier

Cara Green, of Bowie, recently started sending her 2-year-old son to daycare in hopes that it will prepare him for preschool when he starts next fall. She has two main concerns: potty training and language development.

"I'm hoping that part-time daycare will encourage speech development that will help him be more successful at preschool starting in August 2013," she says.

There are many theories about how to prepare your child for his or her first foray into school, but Maryland preschool directors know best. Here are a few tips on how to prepare and get through the first few days of preschool from directors Beth Dunleavy of St. Andrew by the Bay Preschool and Shawn Berusch of Creative Gardens Learning Center, both in Annapolis.


Eight tips for preparing for preschool

1. Getting a feel for the school ahead of time can be critical to your preschooler's adjustment.
"The number one thing is to visit the preschool with your child," Berusch says. "That way the preschool is not such a strange place when the child begins." He also encourages child-teacher interactions during this visit, in addition to reminding your child the teacher's names in the week prior to preschool.

2. Adjust their schedule at least a week before school begins.
An earlier bedtime and a healthier breakfast are both important.

3. Do not carry your child into school.
Your preschooler can sense your anxiety or apprehension. "Hold their hand instead," Dunleavy suggests.

4. A loving but firm position by mom and dad with regard to school is needed to help children overcome anxiety.
Focus on the good things, Berusch says, like playing, art and meeting new friends.

5. Choose your words carefully, since preschoolers are very literal.
Do not say things such as "don't worry mommy will be back," Dunleavy warns. They may not have been "worried" until you said the word "worry!"

6. Remain calm, positive and reassuring.
Don't make a big deal about saying goodbye – this often makes the situation feel out of control and negative. Children always calm down quicker with a "quick kiss and goodbye," Berusche says. He also thinks it's important to let your child know when you're picking him up. Since most preschoolers can't tell time, he suggests using something they can understand, like "before lunch" or "after nap."

7. If your child really struggled at drop off, call the school and ask a staff member to check in on your child.
"There are many pleasant distractions set up by teachers," Dunleavy says. Most of the time, preschoolers will realize that school is fun and forget their uneasiness.

8. Allowing your preschooler to miss school even for one day could begin a difficult cycle of school avoidance.
Dunleavy believes parents should have a loving but firm position on attending school. Missing a day can disrupt their schedule, she says.

Chances are children will have a fabulous time at preschool once they're settled in, both directors agree.

Check out our Preschool Directotry

Books to help prepare your kids for preschool

"Maisy Goes to Preschool" by Lucy Cousins
Maisy learns about art time, play time, nap time, potty time, and more in this "first experiences" book.

"I Am Too Absolutely Small for School" by Lauren Child
Lola is not so sure about school. After all, why would she need to count higher than ten when she never eats more than ten cookies at a time? Once again, it's up to ever-patient big brother Charlie to persuade Lola that school is worthwhile — and that her invisible friend, Soren Lorensen, will be welcome, too.

"The Kissing Hand" by Audrey Penn
School is starting in the forest, but Chester Raccoon does not want to go. To help ease Chester's fears, Mrs. Raccoon shares a family secret called the Kissing Hand to give him the reassurance of her love any time his world feels a little scary.

Photo courtesy of St. Anne's  School of Annapolis