Many of you know I’m a preschool teacher, which means I am in the midst of getting ready for my first day of school. My class is called The Little Ducklings. So, I sit here writing this blog while listening to the sound of my printer shooting out paper with visuals of little ducks. And just like a toddler’s first day of school, I am excited and nervous.
Going to school is overwhelming for parents, kids and of course, the teachers. Orientation night with the parents is always an anxious time for my teaching partner. As for me, it’s the first time I see those sweet faces of the little ones walking through our door. I want to swoop them up immediately, but I know they aren’t ready for that.
To help calm my nerves and yours, I’m going to practice some of what I preach with these tips for parents with toddlers:
- Start a school night bedtime routine.
- Summer nights are full of fun, and no one really cares if their toddler’s bedtime schedule is off. But, in order to get your toddler ready for school, start them on a proper sleep schedule a couple of weeks prior to the start of school.
- Your toddler’s bedtime should be the same every night.
- And wake them up at the same time in the morning.
- This routine will help your little one’s body to adjust before school begins.
- Think about what breakfast on school days will look like.
- Getting toddlers to eat breakfast is not always easy. School day breakfast should be made up of things you know they really like. And for your sake, make sure it’s fast and easy to prepare.
- Meal prepping their breakfast for the week is a great idea. Egg Muffins with pre-made chicken sausages are my favorites. Have the OJ or milk already poured into their favorite cup ready to go right from the refrigerator.
- Get your toddler excited about preschool.
- Toddlers love to pretend play, so pretend they are going to school. Have fun with it. For example, you play teacher while they are the student, then switch. Or pretend those stuffed animals love going to school, too (I hear they make great students!).
- Talk about school and all the fun they will have making new friends and finding new toys to play with.
- If possible, take them to the school ahead of time. Let them get familiar with the place. If you can’t actually get on the school grounds, drive past there often, and talk about it.
- Without making it a big deal, let them know that they are a big kid, that you will drop them off when they go to school, and that you will ALWAYS come back to pick them up.
- Take them to the store and let them pick out a special backpack for school
- Be sure to listen to your toddler’s fears if they have them. Don’t just say, “Everything will be fine.” Let them know you hear their words and then reassure them. And look for non-verbal cues your child may exhibit when they are nervous or scared.
- Have your child’s complete medical information ready to drop off.
- If a child has specific medical needs or allergies, be sure to highlight it and give a copy to the teacher as well as the school
- Remember, the more information your child’s teacher has, the better they can meet their needs. We once had a child that threw up when they cried hard. We were grateful to know that ahead of time.
- Put a picture of your child on a piece of paper with any medical/allergy information that is relevant, and have the teacher post it somewhere in the classroom.
- Read Books about going to school.
- Preschool Here I Come by David J. Steinberg
- Rosie Goes to Preschool by Karen Katz
- The Twelve Days of Preschool by Jenna Lettice
- Help your toddler become independent. You may be able to do things faster for them, but it won’t help them learn how to maneuver in their new world of preschool.
- Let them put their dirty drink cup in the sink
- Have them put their toys away (at least some of them)
- Encourage them to start dressing themselves
- Teach them to use their words, to ask for something they want or to speak up if they need help
- Encourage socialization skills with your child.
- If possible, ask the school for the name of a family you might be able to make a playdate with to introduce the children. This way, they will see a familiar face at the beginning of school.
- Teach them the importance of taking turns and sharing. If they have siblings, you are probably already doing this. If they are an only child, then you become the person they have to share and take turns with.
- Use your phone to set a timer when you want them to change activities. I use this method a lot in my class. This way they will begin to understand the concept of switching gears when they hear the buzzer.
- Help get your toddler comfortable wearing a mask.
- My final tip for parents with toddlers is probably the most emotional: Saying goodbye to your child.
- Explain to your child that only kids go to school. Moms/Dads don’t get to stay.
- Strongly reinforce that you ALWAYS will come back to get them. Remind them that it is like when you run out to do an errand and always return home.
- Most likely you will want to cry, too. But hold back those tears and suppress your anxiety until they are safely inside their classroom. Then feel free to let it out once you are on the other side of the door.
- Try hard not to run back into the room if you hear your child crying. As a preschool teacher, I want to assure you that we have a lot of experience with separation with many tricks up our sleeves to help your child ease into the transition. I like to send my parents a picture of their child happily playing once they have settled in. Maybe you can ask your child’s teacher to do the same to ease your broken heart.
You and your child may begin the year full of frazzled nerves and anxiety. But trust me, the day will come when you drop them off and have to ask for a hug or kiss goodbye. Why? They’ll be wrapped up in their own little world of new friends, toys, and activities
You’ve got this!