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How to fully prepare your child for preschool

For both parent and student, preschool can be an academic and developmental milestone that is initially marked by worry. This may be your child’s first foray into school, and you might understandably wonder how she will fare. Will she cry when you leave? Will she get along with the other students? As with any transition, preparing for preschool can help your child (and you!) settle into your new routine quickly and smoothly. While there are a number of strategies to try, here are four.

Establish (or maintain) a schedule

Almost every preschool — public or private — adheres to a daily schedule. Students eat their lunches and enjoy their snacks at a specific time, just as they learn, nap and play at a particular hour. This can be a very difficult transition for a child who is accustomed to less structure, but it is also one with a relatively straightforward solution. In the weeks and months before your student begins preschool, establish or more strictly maintain a schedule at home. If you’re able to touch base with your child’s future preschool teacher, you can even align aspects of your daily routine with his or her schedule.

Practice social skills

Although class size differs from state to state and school to school, the average preschool cohort is roughly 20 students. This means that your child will likely share toys and learning tools (i.e., crayons and math manipulables) with more than a dozen other students. While preschool is very much about fostering social skills, you can begin to practice key traits like cooperation and sharing by participating in group classes or playgroups. If your child is accustomed to socializing with just one or two others at a time, gradually build her group exposure to a dozen and then two dozen students.

Acclimate your child to your absence

If you are currently a stay-at-home parent, your child may experience a great deal of anxiety when you first leave her at preschool (this is not, however, true for all students). You may even feel this anxiety yourself — separation can be very difficult when you first attempt it! Before your child’s first day of preschool, enjoy an afternoon with friends or run errands without your child present. Do so as many times as is necessary to reinforce the notion that you will always return for your child, that she is safe while you are gone and that she can still enjoy herself.

Visit the preschool

One of the best ways to further ensure that your student feels comfortable in her new environment is to visit it. An unfamiliar school can be frightening no matter the child’s age and grade level, and many schools take pains to mitigate this discomfort. Contact your student’s preschool and inquire about any events that occur before the school year officially begins. Depending on your child’s preschool, this may include curriculum evenings, ice cream socials, school-wide tours and more. Even a single hour in her new classroom can allay misgivings and spark enthusiasm for the fast-approaching school year.

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