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Tuesday, February 7, 2023
HomeEducationUh-Oh. Preschool is Coming.

Uh-Oh. Preschool is Coming.

 

Twyla HarbelBy Twyla Harbel, Elementary School Principal Riverdale Baptist School, Upper Marlboro, MD

Your child is 3, 4 or 5 years old and headed into a structured preschool environment for the first time. Feeling panicked? Is your child having meltdowns in the store, in church, at the dining room table? Are there bathroom accidents? A complete lack of the sharing gene that you’ve tried so hard to instill? Breathe in; breathe out. You’re not alone. The excitement of the upcoming school year is enough to send most young children off the rails from time to time.

Here are some suggestions that may help in the time leading up to this momentous event as well as throughout the school year:

Healthy Eating. We all know the importance of good eating habits in improving brain function and behavior. But who among us hasn’t given into the french fry wail at the fast food drive-thru? Or the ice cream begging after dinner? Although we know eating unhealthy foods creates mood crashes, grumpiness and the like, we find ourselves saying “yes” more often than we should. Instead, make it a habit to have fruit, raw veggies, healthy muffins and cookies easily available. Create an atmosphere where good food choices are rewarded and bad food choices are not a regular option. Sitting and eating at the table to finish an entire snack or meal before being excused are habits that will be necessary in most preschools.

Toileting Skills. Most preschools require that incoming students can execute proper toileting behavior, including self-cleaning, flushing and washing hands. It is important that this is regular behavior for the child before coming to school. Accidents happen, of course, and they will be handled in a nurturing manner.
Sleeping. A healthy sleep routine is crucial for young children. Aiming for 8 or 9 hours of sleep for preschoolers should be the goal. It helps to avoid stimulating activities between dinner and sleep as well as too many drinks. The routine might include taking a bath or shower, reading a short book aloud, offering an encouraging summary of the day and saying a prayer before the goodnight kiss.

Social Activities. You can support the things we teach in school—sharing, interaction, responsibility—by arranging active play with other children, assigning small tasks around the home, encouraging participation in church activities and providing opportunities for managing personal challenges. Separating from you and/or their current childcare situation for a period of time will lead to the independent behavior that is so important in school.

Electronics. Many young children come into preschool already addicted to their electronic gadgets. Screen time at home should be limited in favor of more active learning experiences. Simply turning off the device usually results in a battle, but teaching the meaning of “no” is vitally important to a child’s success in school. Establish basic rules and be consistent with enforcing them so your child moves towards obedience and self-discipline with electronics and life in general. It helps to be prepared with stimulating and enjoyable alternatives to create a positive result.

In preschool we present your child with a wide variety of experiences each day to create a fun learning environment, but a home structure that supports our common goals is paramount. Encourage writing and art by having pencils, markers, crayons, and blank paper easily available. Practice following 1- or 2-step directions. Establish rules and consequences for breaking them. Be consistent. Play guessing games. Promote creativity by making things with your child out of simple age-appropriate objects—empty boxes, toothpicks, socks. Read together every day. You’ll both be glad you did!

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