Tips for Helping Children Transition into Preschool
Entering preschool is a big step for any child. Parents and teachers can help children adjust by anticipating their needs and preparing them for their new environment. Ideally, transition efforts, such as visiting the preschool, should start several months prior to the child’s third birthday and/or the beginning of school. The goal is to familiarize the child with the provider and the new environment; allow the provider opportunities to “get to know” the child and plan more effectively before he/she becomes a member of the group; and allow parents opportunities to become acquainted with the new provider/teacher, group, policies and procedures, and future playmates/classmates, and their parents.
Specific suggestions for successful transition planning for children entering preschool are:
Set up an initial meeting with the provider/teacher. Although this can take place at
the new location, home visits give the child the chance to meet the new provider/
teacher in their own environment, which can reduce anxiety later and strengthen the
sense of home-school connection, and allow the provider/teacher the opportunity to
get a firsthand sense of the child’s home environment.
Plan a few visits to the new setting that include spending time with the
provider/teacher, exploring the setting, and playing on the playground. Decide ahead
on an individual basis whether visits occur when other children are present.
Parents should share any concerns or special considerations regarding their child,
such certain fears, level of toilet training, food allergies, etc.
Use pictures and/or stories to familiarize the child with their new setting:
playmates/classmates and provider/teacher.
Be sure the child is in good physical and mental health. Schedule doctor and dental
checkups early. Discuss with the pediatrician any concerns you have over your child’s
emotional or psychological development. The doctor can help determine if concerns
are normal, age appropriate issues or require further assessment. Children benefit
if potential issues are identified and addressed early. (See “Tips Regarding Young
Children With Special Needs below)
If the child has been in a different program already, encourage communication
between receiving and sending provider/teachers, particularly if the child has
special needs or particular issues coping in the new setting.
Allow the child to bring a favorite toy or belonging in order to increase his or her
comfort level during the first few weeks of school.
Do not over-react if the first few days are a little rough. Young children in
particular may experience separation anxiety or shyness initially but teachers should
be trained to help them adjust. If a child cries at drop off, parents should remain
calm and positive. They should not linger but rather reassure the child that he will
be okay and that they will be back soon.
During the first few weeks of this transition, provider/teachers and parents should
share information about how they think the child is adjusting.
Ideally, parents should plan to spend extra quiet one-on-one time with their child
during the first weeks. Keep the family schedule as simple as possible to allow for
the new preschooler’s adjustment needs.
Arrange play dates with a new friend (or friends). Strengthening social bonds with
playmates/classmates, helps build children’s sense of familiarity and comfort level in
the new setting.
If possible, parents should try to volunteer in the classroom or as a field trip
chaperon at least periodically throughout the year. Doing so helps even children feel
that their new setting and family life are linked. Being in the new setting/classroom
is also a good way to develop a relationship with the child’s provider/teacher and
classmates, and to get firsthand exposure to their environment and routine. Most
preschool teachers welcome even occasional parent help.to Preschool