For a stay-at-home mom (SAHM), the first day of preschool is a big deal. Your little boy or girl probably hasn’t spent much time away from you, and he or she looks to you to make the day run smoothly.
It’s scary for kids, and I was worried about how my son would do.
I didn’t expect him to embrace preschool readily, so I developed a four-part plan to ease him into it:
We started with some teacher-led classes at a local kids’ center
I enrolled my son in a few classes that would allow him to understand how a classroom works. A local activity center offered classes in everything from art to science and music for little kids. The classes were only 30 minutes long, and I could watch through the window to see how he was doing.
The key components were that Mommy was not in the class with him, and the class was led by a teacher. This gave him a chance to get used to following directions given by another adult, and to sit quietly with other kids.
I’m really glad I did this, because he needed a lot of guidance. He was so interested in the other kids that he would irritate them on purpose just to see what they would do, sometimes kicking their chairs or pulling little girls’ hair.
We had some great talks about this, and thankfully this behavior disappeared by the next step…
Next he started summer camp part-time at the preschool he would be attending
Summer camp is often a more relaxed version of school, yet the teachers follow the same basic classroom routines. (Here’s a handy worksheet for evaluating preschools.)
We actually let him start in the beginner’s class (ages 2-4), thinking it would be easier if he were in with a slightly younger crowd who were also learning the ropes. Though he enjoyed it, he found it a bit chaotic with the two-year-olds interrupting his “work”.
Also, thinking it would be difficult for him to adjust, we only enrolled him for every second week. To do it over, I might have done the entire five weeks, as it was tough to establish a routine with one week on, one week off.
He met the teacher and explored the classroom prior to the first day of preschool
Since he was moving up a grade, he would have a new teacher for his preschool class. She scheduled a day of orientation where the kids could all come in with their parents (four kids at a time, scheduled throughout the day) and take a look around. This really helped to alleviate anxiety, as he knew exactly what it would look like on his first day.
He practiced doing things by himself
While there, I helped my son go to the bathroom and get a drink of water, so he would know how to do those things by himself come Monday.
At home, we are helping him practice dressing himself, feeding himself, and going to the bathroom completely independently.
He isn’t staying at school for lunch, as he still needs an afternoon nap. But when he’s ready, we’re going to practice using his lunchbox and eating by himself at home first, start to finish.
So, how is it going?
Well, it’s only been three days so far. But he seems comfortable there, and he even knows some of the other kids from summer camp. He hasn’t cried at drop-off, though he has said he wants me to stay the whole day with him. Time will tell. The teachers say it takes about six weeks to fully adjust.
A fun side of all this for me has been picking out school clothes for him. Don’t underestimate the importance of helping your child look his or her best! A sweet little kids’ hat from Beanie Designs can add the feel-good factor to the day’s outfit as well as protect little heads and ears during outdoor play as Fall weather kicks in.