THOUSANDS of children from around the country will take their first formal step on the education ladder through preschool start next week.
Irene Gunning, CEO of Irish Preschool Play Association (IPPA) which represents 50,000 families nationwide through its membership of crèches, preschools, after school and parent and toddler groups, has the following tips to get the children and the parents off to the best possible start.
According to Irene Gunning, “The preschool curriculum is a gentle stepping stone onto the education ladder, where children meet and make new friends, learn the importance of turn taking and sharing and most importantly build their own confidence and life skills through a child centred curriculum of activity and play. ”
Parents should dig out that induction letter from their preschool manager with details about school bags, timetable, healthy lunches etc. and make sure they are organised in advance, so that nobody is unduly stressed on the first few days. Consider whether you walk or drive and decide in advance. Make sure the school-bag and lunch box you choose are easy to manage and think about the best clothes for your child to wear. It means clothes your child can play in, without fear of paint splashes and clothes that are easy to manage when visiting the toilet.
Talk to your child about preschool over the coming days but resist the temptation of hyping it up too much as the child might be totally underwhelmed with the reality. Refer to the teachers – who you’ve most likely already met - by their first names and tell your child about the other children, the toys, the painting, the play dough and the kind of activities you know that will interest them. Many children have already visited the preschool in advance of term start and remind them of that experience.
Explain to your child that you or another loved one will be dropping and collecting them from preschool and how that will work. Tell your child the two things you, or your minder, will do while they are at preschool to give the child a sense of the short time involved, like going to the bank and preparing lunch. It’s not too long and not long too short – in fact just enough time to have fun before being collected!
Relax and don’t fuss and let your child know that you’re confident that they can manage. On reaching the door each morning, smile and treat teacher like a friend. Remember that your child is alert to the emotional messages you send out, so don’t panic and don’t let the child see you crying. If they do, explain that you are crying because this is a happy day.
If your child is fine going in on the first day, just walk away and don’t look for problems where none exist. The majority of children will sail in, no problem.
If your child does cry going in, follow the lead of the teacher. Often children who come in the door crying are okay and laughing five minutes later.
Rest assured that if your child is not settling the teacher will contact you. Make sure to return for pick up on time as children can fret when they see other children leave before them.
Don’t expect the teacher to give you detailed feedback in the first two weeks when the whole group is really settling in. If there is any problem teacher will let you know, otherwise no news is good news.
After the session, ask your child about the sand, the books, the toys and the other children. If your questions are specific, you’ll get more information.
Finally, make sure you are not under time constraints in the first week of preschool. You’ve got to be prepared to stay and help them settle in – so make sure you have that flexibility. It is important that your child doesn’t feel pressurised or hurried.