During your child’s critical first five years of life, you as a parent are working tirelessly to build the foundations that will ensure your child thrives at preschool, and beyond. Some steps may seem obvious but they nonetheless contribute to the goal of ensuring your child is happy, healthy and well adjusted. Here are some ways you can ensure your child is prepared for preschool.
- Exercise and play. Playtime is important but not just to have fun. As you play with your child or observe your child playing with others, look for any concerns. Does your child run, throw, catch, jump and dance at equal levels as other children his age? How is his balance? Are there any indications of a physical disability or social issues? Coordinate closely with your pediatrician to make sure that your child is making all the expected milestones for his age. There are effective interventions if you think that your child may have a disability.
- Nutrition. Your preschooler requires steady, well-balanced diet to ensure he gets the nutrients he needs, but also has a full tummy to be better able to concentrate in class. Talk to your pediatrician for recommendations, or a consult with a nutritionist specializing in pediatric nutrition if you have any concerns, especially if your child requires a specialized diet.
- Pre-school checkups. Most states have requirements mandating students receive certain immunizations before they attend school. The same is true with pre-schools, even if they are privately run. Staying on course with regular annual medical check-ups will ensure yours is not susceptible to certain diseases. If you object to vaccinations due to medical or religious objections, your pediatrician will provide you the proper documentation and make recommendations to ensure your child is not at risk for dangerous diseases. Your child should also have a dental screening check-up at 3 years of age, or earlier.
- Potty training. Even the most sophisticated preschooler has accidents. Be sure that your child is ready for day one by having a discussion about going to the potty. If your child is in pull-ups, ensure they understand how to ask to be changed and be sure the preschool has enough pull-ups in your cubby. Reinforce that you won’t be mad if an accident happens, and always keep a set of extra clothes (including socks!) on hand, just in case.
As adults, we all still work at honing our social skills, so give your child a head start at building them. That way, you child will be prepared to engage fully in all that preschool has to offer. Some benefits of preparing your child for social interactions in preschool include:
- Instill confidence that your child has self-worth and is ready and able to take on new tasks, and stick with them until mastered. Give your child love – unconditional love and assurance that in you, they have a steady, loving guide. Be generous with your cuddling, provide lots of positive attention, engage emotionally with your child, and be prepared to provide corrective action and positive lessons learned when your child hits a snag at preschool.
- Instill independence that your child is not afraid to stand up for himself at preschool, and to be able to verbalize concerns and opinions. You can start at home by letting him choose a piece of clothing, helping to make his own lunch, or letting him dress.
- Cooperation, empathy, and self-control are important factors that are better learned young. Hitting and biting are common problems in children who have not developed a sense of confidence and security. The best way to help your child learn cooperation and self-control is by example. Act respectfully, and calmly. Be thoughtful of others. Set boundaries and expectations, be consistent, be reasonable. Children do well with stability. Your child will learn by observing your behavior. You are being watched!
- Be prepared for differences. Advise your children that there may be children at preschool who don’t look, act, talk, or sound like them. Remind that differences should be celebrated! If there are any questions about someone who is different, encourage them to have that discussion with your or their teacher. Lifelong friendships often start in the wee years!
- Engage your child’s natural curiosity and guide it in positive directions. Be patient with your child’s attempts to accomplish tasks. Repetition is key for learning and to build up persistence for difficult talks later in life. Don’t do things for your child, just allow time for practice to build that skill. Praise and reward your child when it is accomplished!
- Work with language and critical thinking to help your child build cognitive skills while playing or doing simple tasks. Suggest ways to accomplish a task, then allow the child to perform it. As your child gains understanding, allow him to take on the task alone.
- Have dialogues, from birth on, to help your child be more verbal and Dialogues also help form critical emotional bonds. When speaking with your baby, simply narrate your day. With toddlers, engage in real conversation. It may be more sophisticated than you think!
- Read to your child. Studies show that children who are read to, read more all through life. Even babies love being read to. At the earliest stages, it’s about the sound of your voice, the phrasing, and the closeness that fires development of all parts of your child’s brain.
- Be a good listener. Your child has the same feelings, worries, and anxieties that adults do. Be a kind and patient listener. Your child will feel valued and safe, and you will better understand your child in the future.
- Expand horizons by taking your child to new places. The sights and sounds, and smells of new things stimulate a child’s brain. It’s new, it’s interesting! Libraries, zoos, museums, parks, especially if there is a concern going on, are all wonderful new experiences for your child.
- Start with basic lessons. By the time a child enters kindergarten, it is usually expected they can read simple sentences. Work with your child to at least know their ABCs, colors, shapes, and animals before day one of preschool. They should also know how to line up, listen and say please and thank you.
- Share your child’s excitement about going to school for the first time. It’s important that you show your child how preschool will be a fun and exciting experience.
For new parents, saying goodbye to your preschooler can be an emotional roller coaster! Why not work with the experts to make sure your child – and you – are prepared for that first day of preschool? If you have questions about your child’s first days in preschool or need medical advice, contact Children’s Health Care of Massachusetts. CHC looks forward to partnering with you to help your child achieve the healthiest childhood possible.