9 Ways to Support Preschool Readiness

Is your tot due to start preschool? Read these helpful tips from Childhood Development expert Anastasia Moloney on how to prepare (and not over prepare!)

When it comes to preschool, we all want our little guys and gals to be as prepared as possible. But many of us may be overthinking what “being prepared” really means. Rest easy; there is no need to stress about whether or not they know their letters, numbers, or how to write their name. Your budding scholars will have plenty of time in preschool to learn all of that. Instead, we want to focus on their social/emotional readiness in order to empower them to be confident and successful in this new environment.

Preschool should be focused on play-based learning.  Research has shown that in a child’s early years, they learn best through play.  Children can work on the more academic skills to prepare for kindergarten later on. At the preschool level, new experiences and behaviors are best explored and learned through play–including the ability to learn how to emotionally regulate themselves. So, at this stage, be sure to take the time to focus on helping your little one empower themselves and succeed as they transition into their academic careers.

Here are 9 ways to help your child feel ready for preschool:

  1. Establish a strong morning and evening routine: Children are most successful with routine and predictability. To make sure your child is well rested, ready to learn, and alert for school, it is important to have routines in place that help regulate eating and sleeping. It also allows for a smoother transition to school as they know what to expect on a daily basis.
  2. Encourage independence: In school there are many more children than adults, so encouraging independence with self-help skills will help him/her feel successful. These self help skills can be anything from potty training, washing hands, putting on shoes, or being responsible for his/her own things.
  3. Discuss feelings and model ways to cope with emotions: Talk about emotions. Help your child label his/her emotions instead of just dismissing them or telling them not to cry.  Help them understand why they are feeling this way.  Three year olds are learning to express themselves and are often more emotional, so help by giving him/her the vocabulary or talking through why s/he may feel a certain way.
  4. Plan a trip to the school: If possible, most schools will allow you to take a trip (or two) to the school to see the classroom and to let your child meet the teacher and familiarize themselves with their surroundings. This will help your child know what to expect for the first day. Your child may still experience separation anxiety especially if s/he is not used to being away from you, however talking about school, reading books about school, and visiting it a few times can help them be better prepared.
  5. Have your child help at home: Part of preschool is classroom chores, taking responsibility, and cleaning up after yourself.  It is helpful if your child has experience taking responsibility in his/her own home.  Have your child help you clean up or give them simple chores around the house that they can help with. Typically, children love to help and feel empowered when they are given something they are in charge of.
  6. Talk with your child: This is a good thing to do throughout their development and not just for school readiness. Teach your child the importance of communication. This can be talking about what s/he is going to experience, it can also be as simple as taking turns talking and listening to each other or discussing what you see around you.
  7. Read, Read, Read: Reading is another one that is important throughout development, but especially as your little one is ready to go to school it can help build their vocabulary and expose him/her to many of the early learning academics that will be focused on.
  8. Allow time for simple play: Give your child the time to explore with basic toys, creating something, or imaginative play. Part of this play is also cooperative play – playing with others and learning how to take turns. Have him/her practice through catch or board games.
  9. Don’t over prepare: Even if our intentions are good we do not want to make preschool seem too big of a deal as we do not want to create anxiety. Share what to expect, take a visit, read some books about school, and maybe buy a new backpack to get them excited. Instead focus on the other pieces: Simple play, independence, routines, and chores. All these day-to-day activities will help them to prepare without knowing it.

Just remember, that there is always an adjustment period with preschool, as there is with anything new. Some children have no problem and others will have a harder time with separation anxiety. This does not mean that one is more prepared than the other, it is just how your child adjusts to change. The above activities can encourage success in a classroom setting and will help them enter with confidence and the tools to succeed. Preschool is a place for learning and they will focus on all areas of development, so don’t stress about the small things such as what they know or don’t know — that’s what they are there to learn!