Back-to-school time is upon us! Supply lists! Clothes shopping! Open house nights! Oh, my!
Teachers are sending out letters and emails. Parents are checking them twice….and yet there are still the questions: Are we forgetting something? How will the first day go?
For parents of preschoolers (especially those new to school)?? Forget it! The list of questions and anxieties are long enough to fuel the writing of all the parenting books you can read. Preschool isn’t just preschool! It’s the launchpad for your precious learner’s future! The brain is 90% developed by the age of 5 (yes, BEFORE kindergarten), and the culture at home plays such a large part in how it will develop. This is why it is so important for families to be on board with the mission and goals of the preschool. A harmonious partnership between the child’s family and their teachers creates the most ideal (and effective) learning environment! Consider the following 5 tips for helping your child transition well into school and focus on the important matters: socializing, learning, and having fun!
- Practice eating at the table (while sitting *gasp*)
“No child shall be allowed to drink or eat while walking around.” -p.67 of the State Board Of Social Services Standards For Licensed Child Day Centers
In the state of Virginia, it is mandated by the STATE that children are stationary while they eat. No, the standard does not explicitly state that children must sit at a table, but it is much safer for the tiny tots to eat in a chair at the table. Have you ever observed 2 and 3-year-old children walk from 1 place to another (or even just turn to look at something)? It is not uncommon for those simple movements to result in a tumble! Now, add to that tumble a mouth full of food, and voila! We’ve now got the recipe for a major choking session, major spills, and a major domino reaction. Because of course, young friends will want to come to the rescue (or just to check out the commotion) and more than likely, more tumbling ensues!
For states that have a similar requirement, a preschool actually receives violations that go on record when children are found to be eating while walking around (and violations are not good).
While a well informed and nurturing teacher will be sitting at the table with children during meal time, it is quite difficult (and tiring) to spend meal time gently retrieving and redirecting toddling new preschoolers back to the table to enforce table manners.
Try this: Enjoy meals together. Let your little learner see YOU sitting still and eating. Call your child back to the table. If that doesn’t work, lovingly pick them up and set them in their seat, and say, “We eat at the table.” That is a short, sweet statement they can understand. If he/she continues to leave with a crumbled cookie, a clutched carrot, or the precious pouch of pureed fruit, kindly remove it from their hand, and inform him/her that they are “all done” with a loving smile. You can then explain that the food will be at the table when he/she is ready to eat.
Stay consistent, and you will see results (and your child’s teacher will be so grateful to have one less child to follow).Also, you will have the satisfaction of knowing you prevented a choking and tumbling scenario.
SIDE NOTE: More than a few families have expressed frustration (and embarrassment) about the dining-out experience with their child(ren). Enforcing a few basic table etiquette guidelines at HOME can make a WORLD of difference! After implementing these strategies in the home (paired with reinforcement at schools), parents that were once on the verge of tears at the thought of taking their children out to eat have returned with great stories of triumph!
2. Practice hand washing
I’m sure hand washing is a consistent part of your potty training routine! The key to hand washing, though, is how you do it.
Scrubbing one’s hands for 20 seconds is such an important part of preventing the spread of illnesses. That is truly the appropriate length of time to demolish so many of those icky germs just waiting to spread and start a stomach-flu or common cold wave throughout a school. AND! Lucky YOU! This is another fun activity you can do with your child to help them learn to count to 20! Use silly voices, sing, whisper, shout! This is a fun activity that promotes healthy living and an early love of numbers. Score!
Take care to emphasize to your child that he/she should dry their hands with the paper towel and then use that towel to turn off the water faucet.
SIDE NOTE: If your child attends an accredited preschool, like Blue Ribbon Results, this routine for handwashing is an enforced standard.
3. Buckle down with bed time
Did you know that hyperactivity displayed in preschool-aged children is often a result of sleep deprivation? Too bad it doesn’t work that way for adults!
Many times, behavioral problems are linked to children receiving too little sleep. It is recommended that preschoolers get 11-13 hours of sleep a day. Schedule bed time, and stick with it! We all know the many emergencies that just happen to occur after the bedtime story.
- “I’m thirsty.”
- “I need to use the bathroom.”
- “I’m scared.”
- “Can I have a snack?”
- “What are we doing tomorrow?”
Just like the table routine, gently and consistently send them right back to bed. Let them see that you can outlast them! When asked about the big problem with children and sleep, pediatricians most often cite parents’ lack of bedtime boundaries as the #1 source. When parents constantly jump to meet children’s every bed time “need”, children do not learn how to self-soothe and fall into a restful sleep. This translates into sleep problems as they mature.
To help your child settle into bedtime, create a routine! Brush your teeth together. Read a story. Sing a soft song, Say a prayer. Create your own tradition, and stick to it! Before long, these precious moments will signal your child’s brain that it is time for rest, and biology will be on your side. The signals will go off, and sleep hormones will start kicking in to help your child drift into dream land.
4. Practice with shoes and jackets.
Imagine the scene: It’s fire drill day. The alarm sounds, and classrooms full of children move quickly to evacuate the building…..but first a teacher and teacher’s assistant must place 24 tiny shoes on 24 tiny feet. And if it is winter/autumn and jackets are involved? Oh, my! Not such a swift evacuation after all.
Not every day is fire drill day, but most everyday children play outside, and the schedule can be thrown off tremendously by something as simple as placing shoes on feet.
As school approaches, put the blocks and dolls away. Have fun playing with shoes, jackets, buttons, and snaps! These skills help children to feel so accomplished and develop the all-important autonomy (which is so bittersweet for mommies and daddies! They’re growing! *yay* They’re not my little baby anymore! *sob*). When a child is equipped with these skills and gets to become the teacher of their peers for how to do the same, the pride that swells in their heart is visible…and it never fails…There is always the accompanying proclamation: “My mommy/daddy taught me how to do this!”
5. Feed the BRAIN!
With FOOD!!! REAL FOOD!
Think of the brain as a car. Would you fill your gas tank with glue? Not if you want it to run!!
If you want to give your child the best chance at processing new information, making relevant connections, developing critical thinking skills, and navigating social/emotional development, don’t fill their tank with glue!
SIDE NOTE: Fruit snacks are NOT fruit.
6. Label! Label! Label! (Threw in an extra because….who doesn’t like a bonus?!)
For your sanity and the protection of your personal belongings, please write your child’s name on EVERYTHING. Especially in schools with more than 2 classrooms, there are many tiny jean jackets, many Paw Patrol water bottles, many owls and foxes, many blankets, many gloves.
Find a tag in a seam. Apply masking tape, and write on that. Write directly on the item. Please, make sure it is somewhere quite visible. There will be enough bumps and bruises (literal) throughout the year without adding the strain of a missing belonging.
Some families get really into it and send in monogrammed belongings or items with cute, fortified name tags. However you choose to label the belongings, please…..just label! Teachers work very hard to love, nurture, educate, inspire, model appropriate behavior, and implement lessons that keep children wanting to come back the next day! Teachers also work very hard to make sure that the right headband makes it into the right book bag (because Tara didn’t want to wear it anymore 5 minutes after arriving at school…This is more often the case than not). However, it gets difficult, especially when items are not labeled.
With all of that being said, enjoy the upcoming school year. It will be Christmas, and Spring Break, and Summer before we know it! Oh, and while you’re making sure your little one is eating well and getting rest, make sure you do the same! With preschool comes many new games, songs, and questions! You’ll need all of your strength just to keep up.
– N. Lambert