My daughter started preschool in September last year (2020). It was the middle of a global pandemic. She hadn’t been in childcare for six months so it’s fair to say I was a little worried. I knew the pre-school and her key worker as my son had attended the same one and had the same key worker. However Sienna is a very different kettle of fish to her big brother and I really wasn’t sure how she would react.
Originally I had planned for Sienna to visit the Holiday Club in the summer holidays with her brother. She would have the safety net of him and would be able to get used to the people and surroundings before going at it alone in the new school year. The CoronaVirus had other ideas and decided to put a spanner in the works. Settling in sessions were also limited. The one time we went to chat to her key worker, she was upset that Daddy and Lucas couldn’t come too and spent most of the time hiding under my chair. It did not give me the confidence that she would settle in easily!
So what did I learn from Sienna starting pre-school? I thought I would share incase it helps anyone else!
Preschool Tip 1: Prepare Them
In the run up to them starting, it makes sense to prepare them. Sienna was only two and a half so she didn’t understand a lot but I made a point of saying “Will you be going to preschool soon?” and when we dropped Lucas off at school (for six weeks before the summer holidays) I said “Will you be going to this school soon?”. I pointed out the pre school. We walked past the doors and looked in the windows. I talked about fun things she would do. I’m still not sure how much she took it but I felt like I was preparing her and it wouldn’t be a complete surprise.
Preschool Tip 2: Go Shopping!
Little things like a new bag or lunch box can make things so much more exciting for them. I got Sienna a new Frozen lunch box and she was SO excited to use it! You could take them shopping and let them pick some clothes for pre-school or a new bag/water bottle etc. Something that they associate with preschool and are excited to wear or use. Sienna has a little t-shirt and cardigan for uniform. She can wear jeans, leggings or whatever on the bottom half. We went shopping for new leggings and trainers too.
Preschool Tip 3: Night Night Sleep Tight
Sienna is always knackered after preschool. Lucas was the same. There is no downtime. They are constantly being stimulated throughout the day. Colouring, drawing, singing, phonics, role-play, crafts….the list is endless! Bedtime may have gone crazy over the holidays, lockdown etc. Make an effort to get into a good bedtime routine a month or so before they start school. They need that sleep to thrive in preschool. It stops you ending up with an over tired tantruming child at the end of the day.
Note: I still struggle to get Sienna to stay awake till bedtime after a preschool day. She’s so tired but if i let her go to sleep early she wakes up early and it’s a vicious circle!
Preschool Tip 4: Stay Calm. All will be well.
Sometimes children react with a range of emotions when something new is happening. Try and be understanding of this. They may be tantruming because they are anxious about the change. It’s probably not because you gave them a blue cup instead of a pink one.
This tip also relates to their first few days. Sienna pulled the heartstrings majorly on the first few days of preschool. On her very first day I walked away crying. She was carried off by one of the preschool ladies, crying and reaching out for me. It was devastating. Thankfully, her key worker messaged me about an hour later.
“she is totally fine and playing happily.”
I knew she would be, it didn’t make it any less upsetting. I stayed calm, distracted myself and stuck to my guns. The second day she cried again but walked in as opposed to being carried off and then after that she toddled in holding hands with the bestie and didn’t even look back. We were lucky. I know it takes some children longer than that to settle but trust me, they will settle. Have faith.
I firmly believe that nursery and pre-school is a wonderful thing and every child should have the opportunity to go. With thanks to free hours it’s possible. I encourage you to send your child if you’re still not sure what to do. Both my children have thrived beyond what I could do with them at home. They became more confident, their speech improved rapidly, they gained friends, life skills and so much more!