Your little one’s bags are packed, her lunch is ready, and she’s all set for her big day. But have you done your homework? Ruth Rehbock finds out what teachers want you to know before your child starts preschool.
Believe it or not, a new year at preschool isn’t only stressful for you and your child. Every year, hard-working teachers get a new bunch of parents who’ll have a fresh set of grievances that the teachers will have to cope with.
Here are the ABCs that teachers wish they could teach parents before their children get to preschool:
1. There’s more to life than school
One of the most important things for parents to know about preschool is that playing, drawing and painting are vital to your child’s development and growth, but those precious hours at school aren’t enough. Your child needs to be exposed to new stimuli and absorb new input outside of school hours too – at home, on outings, with other children, and through spending time doing family activities. When your child starts preschool, she needs as many first-hand experiences as she can get, and who better to give them to her than Mom?
Encourage your child to take interest in pictures, books, nature, music and people. Take her to the zoo, the theatre, the library, the aquarium or the park and she’ll blossom. Focusing on her for an hour or two will boost her confidence, and she’ll be a sponge when it comes to learning, wherever she is, whatever she’s doing.
2. Trust your child’s teacher
Having a baby is a huge act of faith, so take another plunge now and know that you can trust the preschool teachers’ judgement and insight. They have so much experience with children and will point you in the right direction and give you sound advice, if necessary. If the teacher says your child has low muscle tone, a lisp or trouble concentrating, take a deep breath and get your child assessed by the appropriate professional. A speech-, occupational- or physiotherapist will either confirm or deny the teacher’s observations. Bear in mind that many, many kids require therapy of one sort or another these days. Also, the teacher will assess your child objectively, so trust her and talk to her if you’re worried about an issue; she’s there to guide and advise you, too.
3. Be considerate towards other moms
Bacteria and viruses are either infectious or contagious, so if your child gets sick, keep her at home. Remember that she shares food with other children and touches the other kids, as well as the toys, crayons and books at school, all of which can act as super germ-carriers. You wouldn’t want your child catching a cold or pink eye from someone else’s child, would you?
4. Dress to play
Don’t send your child to school in her best clothes – working with paint, crayons and water, and playing in the sandpit means she’s not going to come home spotless or tidy. If she’s constantly worried about dirtying her clothes, she won’t be able to relax and play as she likes.
5. Times have changed
Preschool is more serious for children in the 21st century because primary schools demand more developed skills and higher standards for Grade 1. Over the last few years or so, the final year of preschool (now called Grade R), has become much more like what Grade 1 was 20 years ago, and is specifically designed to prepare children for school. For this reason, teachers expect kids to learn specific numeric and verbal skills, and to have a fair amount of general knowledge before they move on. But don’t be intimidated by this; it’s a great adventure to watch your little one learn to write her name, learn the alphabet and start doing basic arithmetic.
6. Hanging loose
Children need to feel physically comfortable at school. It isn’t much fun trying to learn when your tummy is growling or your feet have gone numb.Feed your child a healthy, nourishing breakfast, and dress her appropriately every day. Label all her clothes so that they can be sent home again should they go astray.
7. Less can be more
It’s really critical that you don’t overtire your child. Even though it may seem as though she only plays at school, for a preschooler, play equals learning, so don’t overload her schedule with playdates or extramurals – two to three activities after school per week is ample extra fun.
8. Learning life skills
Your child will love the social aspect of preschool, but it’s still necessary for her to interact with other children in an unstructured environment. And for some littlies, forming friendships can take time, so playdates will help with this. If your child learns to play, share and relax around others, she’ll have mastered one critical life skill.
9. Full steam ahead
Preschool isn’t only fun and games. Although your child will have a ball playing with paint, blocks and crayons, and singing songs, it all has a purpose. Drawing, cutting and pasting will develop your child’s fine-motor skills, her social skills will be developed by talking interacting and playing with other children, and her gross motor skills will be improved on the jungle gym, in the playground and in the sandpit.
10. Have an imaginary adventure
Reading to your child is one of the most important out-of-school activities you can do with her. Sharing a story every evening before bed will expand her vocabulary and general knowledge, and will improve your relationship with each other.
11. Encourage independence
Encouraging independence is a key step to enjoying preschool and in having success at primary school. Give
your child tasks and small jobs around the house, and encourage her to solve problems using her own ideas.
12. Teach your child to share
Self-control and respect for others are extremely valuable traits. Teach your child to share with others and not grab or snatch things from other people. These rules are tough to learn at a young age and you may think that only other children have them, but if you persevere and model this behaviour at home, your child’s teachers will be thrilled.
13. Don’t compare your child to others
Don’t expect your child to be on a par with other kids in her class all the time. Children develop at their own pace,
so even though they all need to be able to draw and cut, they may learn these skills slower or faster than others. Remember, there are many factors influencing development, such as, age, sex, personality, and whether a child has siblings or not.
14. Teach your child manners
Teach your preschooler to be polite – to say “please”, “thank you” and “How are you?” Being polite starts at home, but will stand your child in good stead at school, at parties, in playgrounds and with friends.
15. Accidents happen
Preschool is a place for children to explore and climb, run and play, so don’t be surprised when accidents occur. Even the most attentive teachers can’t watch every child every minute of the day, and occasionally your child will trip and scrape a knee or get bumped. Don’t worry, the teachers will take good care of her, and in turn, she’ll learn to cope with these small setbacks.
Xanet is an award-winning journalist and Living and Loving’s digital editor. She has won numerous awards for her health and wellness articles and was a finalist for the Discovery Journalist of the Year in 2009 and again in 2011 for the Discovery Best Health Consumer Reporting and Feature Writing category. She is responsible for our online presence across social media channels and makes sure our moms have fresh and interesting articles to read every day. Learn more about Xanet Scheepers.