Choosing a preschool is a daunting challenge. An even bigger challenge may be preparing your toddler to leave the cozy confines of home with all his toys, friends, and parents who give him constant attention. But if your child will be moving to a preschool setting soon, there are steps moms and dads can take to help ease the transition.
1. Be honest.
Sit down with your partner and discuss whether your toddler is mentally and emotionally prepared for preschool. Is he ready to leave your home and be in a structured environment for several hours each day? Also, determine any areas that he needs to improve on so he can be thrive in a preschool setting.
2. Start early.
This cannot be a last minute decision. Finding the right preschool for your child might take longer than you anticipate and there are lots of questions to answer. Give yourself at least 6 months to start compiling lists of schools and information you need to make an informed decision. You'll want to check out each school you're interested in to make sure it fits your child.
3. Know what to expect.
Go to the preschool and spend half a day there. Watch how the teacher interacts with the students and rewards and disciplines them. Take notes. The information will enable you to help toddler adjust before classes begin.
4. Explain expectations.
Using terms that toddler can understand, focus on one or two things that deal with how he's going to be expected to behave in class. Drill these things daily so toddler knows how to handle himself.
5. Discipline now.
If there are issues with listening, sharing, or following directions, start working on them right away. It might mean that you have to be more proactive with punishments and consequences, but the benefit will be a child who is better behaved and gets along better with other children.
If possible, enroll your child in a Bible study class or Mommy & Me class to give him an understanding of the structure of a classroom setting. If your child is in day care, some of these issues might have already been dealt with.
7. Build structure in your day.
One of the biggest challenges for toddler might be dealing with the structure of a preschool classroom. There are times to play, learn, and eat. If your home is more laissez-faire, that structure might be unusual for him. Start building more structure into his day leading up to the start of classes to assist in the adjustment period.
8. Cut the cord.
Emotionally it might be challenging for toddler to leave the comfort of home and his special bond with mom or dad for several hours a day. This can be tricky, but explain to him that being away from home is only temporary and that you'll be thinking of him all day long. If need be, make arrangements for toddler to have play dates with other children and leave him on his own. This might help ease the transition if he's used to having you around 24/7.