Nothing is as bittersweet as watching your little one walk into preschool for the first time. What is cuter than seeing your son or daughter take his or her special place in a classroom cheerfully decorated to spark wonder and imagination? At the same time, the experience can be emotional, since it is never easy to separate from your child, especially one so young.
The value of preschool goes far beyond academics. It is about socialization and teaching children how to share and get along as a group. It also shows children that learning can be fun.
Children who attend Catholic preschool learn many important lessons about God and Jesus and enjoy age-appropriate bible stories. Most importantly, they come to know that God loves them completely and unconditionally.
If your child is ready to begin preschool, he or she will benefit tremendously from the experience. However, pushing your child into preschool too early is not a good idea. Therefore, it is important to consider the following when deciding whether your child is ready:
Does your child experience a great deal of separation anxiety? While it is normal for a child to become a bit apprehensive when a parent leaves for a period of time, if a child remains overly distressed for a long period of time he or she is probably not ready.
How social is your child? If your son or daughter enjoys being around other children, chances are he or she is ready for preschool.
Is your child potty-trained? Most preschool teachers will require that students are toilet-trained. Further, if your child is the only one in diapers it can cause him or her to feel anxious or self-conscious.
How does your child react to stimulation? If your child is easily overwhelmed in situations where there is a great deal of noise, music or even laughing, preschool may be too much for him or her. Transitioning from activity to activity may be difficult, as well.
While these are some of the ways to tell if your child is ready for preschool, every child is different. Not all preschoolers will be at the same maturity level but that doesn’t mean they aren’t ready for preschool.
Jessica Malone is a preschool teacher at St. Vincent de Paul School. She said preschool teachers expect a few bumps in the road.
“These young learners are just beginning to understand the expectations of a classroom,” Malone said. “Preschool teachers are used to modeling appropriate behaviors and giving lots of time for practice.”
Teresa McDermott, a preschool teacher at St. Robert Bellarmine School, agrees.
“Parents need to be patient and give the child time to adjust to the newness of everything,” McDermott said.
McDermott also said that communicating with your child’s teacher is the key to a successful school experience, whether your child is in preschool or in high school.
Once you have decided to send your child to preschool, it’s time to choose the right program. Most parents will choose a preschool based on recommendations from friends, family and other parents. It’s a wonderful option if your parish school has a preschool program, since you are already a member of the parish and feel comfortable there.
Even if you plan on sending your child to your parish preschool, it is a good idea to visit or tour the preschool program with your child. The best preschool programs will provide a welcoming, clean and safe environment. Teachers and staff will be friendly and students will seem engaged and happy. Watch your child to see if he or she looks interested in what the preschool classroom has to offer.
You also should ask the preschool teacher or principal the following questions:
It is important to talk to your child early about preschool so that he or she knows what to expect. This helps them to feel more secure. If your child has a chance to meet some of his or her classmates before the first day of school, all the better.
Malone suggests that parents read to their children as much as possible.
“Reading books to very young children gives them the opportunity to develop the listening and language skills that they will need for preschool,” she said.
In the weeks and months leading up to preschool, parents should strive to give their children a little more independence. When children do things by themselves, they feel more confident. Allow them to dress themselves as best they can and brush their hair. Take them shopping for schools supplies, as well, and allow them to pick out their own special backpack.
When the first day of preschool arrives, it is important to make your goodbyes short and sweet. Lingering is never a good idea!
Finally, if your child is not ready for preschool, there is no reason to worry. While preschool is a wonderful experience, your child will not suffer any long term consequences if he or she does not attend.