When your young child starts at an early childhood school or care center, it is a rite of passage for both the child and parent(s). This is such an important time in a young child’s life because children learn and develop many, many skills from birth – 5 years old preparing them for school and life success. This can be a very exciting time for everyone involved, but it can also initially cause angst for both child and parents. However, with the help of a great school, there are some very simple steps you can take to prepare your family and make the transition a smooth, positive experience for everyone involved.
1. Do Your Homework. Choose a few local early childhood schools and care centers that are close to your home and that would be convenient for your family. If possible talk to family members or friends whose children may have attended these schools. “Word of Mouth” is typically a great reference and resource. Contact the schools and schedule a tour. Don’t forget to bring your questions. For a guide to good questions to ask when choosing an early childhood school or care center click here.
2. Visit the Schools and Make Communication A Priority. Introduce your child a few times to the teachers and people at the school. Show your child the spaces, classroom, and the playground. A good sign is when the Director and Teachers understand the importance of a successful start for children, and they have a formal transition plan in place and discuss this plan with you. For example, at The Global Child, we schedule at least 2 one-hour visits with our families. During the first visit the parent(s) attend with the child. The child can see that the parent is comfortable with the teachers and the parent(s) can observe the interactions with their child. This goes along way with helping everyone feel comfortable the first few days. The second visit is for the child to attend independently and practice drop-off and daily routines. Communication with the teachers and schools is also essential to your child’s success. Ask the teachers about procedures for starting, most good schools will have documents that outline what your child for school. At The Global Child we provide parents with a document that helps get organized for the first day and includes helpful suggestions of what to bring to school, how to label all belongings, and describes a daily schedule. Also, important for you to know is how the school will communicate with you. For example, will you get daily reports, newsletters, or updates? This is particularly important for infants and children who not yet verbal. At The Global Child, we use a web-based app called Tadpoles® www.tadpoles.com where teachers input information about the childrens’ day as well as pictures that parents can access on their phones or tablets.
3. Talk About the School with Your Child. Young children thrive on being prepared, things being predictable, and understanding expectations, so preparing your child in these ways is important. The best way to do this is through authentic experiences and conversations. Parent(s) can play “school” with their child and use the name of the school and their teachers’ names in play or conversation. Even very, very young children benefit from pictures of and language about the school and caregivers. Another great activity to create positivity around staring a new school or care center is to read stories about leaving parent(s) or the first day of school or care. Some great books include, The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn, Llama Llama Misses Mama by Anna Dewdney, My First Day at Day Care by Janelle McGuiness, The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson, and Bye Bye Time by Elizabeth Verdick.
4. Plan Your New Daily Routine. For the best first day success, determine and stick to a morning routine that allows parent(s) and children to have enough time so it does not feel overly rushed or chaotic. This will help limit frustration and perhaps even outbursts. As much as possible, arrange belongings and the items you will need for work and school the night before. Work with your child around consistent, reasonable bedtimes. Again, children thrive on predictably and knowing what to expect. By planning according successful transitions will more likely occur and in the end most likely save you time and probably some tears on both sides.
5. Expect some changes in your baby or toddler. While your child is getting used to new routines and schedules, they may be clingy, sad, or out of sorts. This is all normal for many children, according to research, because children’s stress hormones actually elevate during transition periods but cause no lasting damage. Don’t worry something is wrong or that there is some concern at the school. It is best to have open communication with the Director and Teachers at the school, assure and comfort your child and remain calm and positive about the new experiences to best support your child.
6. Be aware and honor your own feelings about the transition. After all, parent(s) are normal, human beings too and yes, this is a milestone for you too. It is okay to fee anxious about this transition and change. Expect to probably have some sort of emotional response and or feelings about leaving your child. But, as the new routines are established and you and your child adjust, like with any milestone in children’s lives that parents experience, you will enjoy seeing your child learn, grow, develop and thrive socially and cognitively with peers and other adults. It’s normal have all these emotions about your child growing and these emotions will surface many times as your child grows, but it’s important to remain positive about the experience and remember everything your child is gaining from these first school or care experiences.
Most children, thanks to amazing teachers and wonderful learning experiences, LOVE their early childhood schools, teachers and friends and are very happy! I know this stands true for both of my now teenage boys and the children who attend The Global Child! Cherish this time, it is truly so special.
Virginia Brown spent 24 years in the public school system in Connecticut focusing on early child hood education as a kindergarten teacher, special education teacher, principal, and Director of Special Education. In 2011, she founded The Global Child. The school’s newest location is in Bethel at 15 Park Lawn Drive. Learn more by visiting www.globalchildschool.com. Contact Sue Canfield by phone at (203) 798-0015 to set up your tour today!
This post contains sponsored content.