I have two children, 24 months apart, and for the older one there was so much excitement and preparation for play school and at all of 30 months she went to play school happily and told me “You go home, I big girl now!”
When it was time for baby two the scenario was different. I had this wailing child who clung to me so tight that I felt like a monster for leaving him at the play school. Later I realised the transition for the first was a cake walk and so I didn’t prepare as well for the little fellow; and he heard all sorts of stories, some good some dreadful, from his sister so he was naturally apprehensive. Hopefully my experience will make you wiser.
This week let’s focus on the preparation and next week a checklist to help you choose a good play school.
You may apply these tips for putting your baby in a day care too.
Read books about play school: I am sure your local library will have many, but one easily available on Amazon is ‘Spot goes to School’. There is one where Peppa Pig goes to school and many others. You could also show them pictures about activities they will do at school: children playing, children around teachers and children colouring.
Talk about the activities that happen in a play school: Talk about going to school (bus/auto/car/walking), greeting teachers, saying bye to mama or papa, wishing friends, sitting on a little chair/mat, opening their bag, taking out books, learning how to count, singing songs, colouring, opening their snack boxes, putting things back in their bag, etc.
Play ‘school school’: Using all the activities you spoke about. You be the teacher at times and let the little one be the teacher. Many fears may be expressed while playing, so deal with them gently and talk it through. If your child says: “Other children will take my snacks.” You can reply by saying “If that happens you can tell teacher she will see that it doesn’t happen.” Do not brush away the doubt by saying it will never happen or your child may not vocalise fears.
Play at the school: Get permission for your child to come and see the school and get familiar with the premises.
Be sensitive to signs of regressing and melt downs: This is a big step in a child’s life. He/she may get anxious or suddenly start soiling his/her pants, these are all signs of anxiety. Deal with each incident without shaming your child and work on building confidence.
Go school shopping: This makes it so exciting choosing a bag, a bottle, a snack box, crayons, a first day outfit. Make it fun and exciting.
Label all the equipment: Obviously your child can’t read yet so maybe a picture that begins with the starting sound of his/her name or a favorite cartoon character.
Start getting them into a schedule: Change waking up time, meal times, bed times, etc. Get your child to start doing simple things like putting on his or her shoes (slip-ons or elastic backs), and opening his/her bag and taking out things.
Let your child choose what to wear on the first day: Keep it out on display and let the little one show his grandparents and other family members the outfit.
Wake up early: Make sure you are up early and relaxed ready with breakfast and everything else before waking your child.
Make a favourite breakfast: Dish it up and make it with all the extra trimmings exactly as he/she likes.
Pack the bag together: Let your little one place all he/she needs in the bag and know exactly what is in the bag. You can make a little name tag and say this has your name, mama and papa’s names and telephone number. Do what the little one needs to feel confident.
Let your child carry a favourite toy: If he/she is attached to a particular toy it will make your child feel good.
Walk into class, greet the teacher: You have practiced this several times during play so follow the same routine. A word of advice, it may be good if you know who will greet the child, whether it is the class teacher or someone else. Find out if they enter the class or wait outside for a while.
Have a goodbye ritual: Do not cry. Follow the same routine – a hug, high five or fist bump and say: “See you soon. Have a fun day!” Leave on a reassuring note.
Follow all these tips, the transition will be smooth and you will have a lovely picture and memory for your scrap book of memories.
(Writer is a volunteer in local schools and a trustee with Sethu)