New things can be both exciting and overwhelming for our kids. It can be a good idea to try and get ahead of those first-day/first-time jitters by preparing our little ones as best we can. Here are a few ideas to help overcome the challenges of trying something new and prepare your child for preschool!
First Day of Preschool:
For many kids, preschool is the first structured environment away from home that they will experience. It might be helpful to talk about what their time at preschool will look like. Many teachers provide a list of the daily schedule in the welcome packet materials (if they didn’t provide it, feel free to ask!). Go over this with your kids and give them a heads up as to the order of activities throughout the day so they can have an idea of what to expect.
Aside from introducing the idea of structure, preschool is a wonderful time for kids to expand their social and emotional skills. Prepare them for this by talking to them about the idea that they can use their words to express what they like or don’t like with new friends, and that the teachers are there to help them and love them throughout the day.
You can also make sure you build their confidence in themselves by encouraging and championing independence. Little things like letting them know where everything is in their backpack or showing them how to zip or button their clothes help them feel confident in caring for themselves throughout the school day.
First Extracurricular Activity:
Beginning a sport or club can be exciting for kids, but it comes with its own challenges. Some little ones might struggle with stage fright or perfectionism. Make sure you take any pressure off the situation by talking to your child about how their best effort is more than enough. Don’t expect perfection, whether it’s in a skill set or behaviorally, but instead, emphasize the idea that they’re learning and growing, and you’re in their corner.
On a more practical side, be sure to purchase any supplies, equipment or clothing that’s necessary before the activity begins. It’s always fun to include your child in this as it helps them gain buy-in and build up anticipation and excitement for the upcoming activity. Be sure to label everything with their name and show them where their name is (and possibly how to identify it), so they can find it in the mix of everyone else’s things.
First Day of Kindergarten:
Whether it’s half-day or full-day kindergarten, there is so much that’s new and exciting about this phase! If your school allows you to, take your child on a tour of their school. Seeing where their classroom, lunchroom, playground and everything else is will help them get their bearings.
It might also be helpful to research your state’s expectations of kindergarten readiness. A simple google search will show what is expected. With this knowledge, you can better prepare your child to begin kindergarten. It might include things like following two-step directions, letter and number recognition, self-control and independence skills. Work with your child on anything you feel is necessary, but keep in mind that you don’t need to put too much pressure on yourself or on them. Kindergarten teachers are well equipped to help your child thrive no matter where they’re starting from.
For all of these first-time experiences, it will be important to talk with your child about a few more things. For safety reasons, make sure they and any adults caring for them know who is allowed to pick them up each day. Ask your child how they’re feeling about whatever new thing they’ve started, and be sure to make space for both positive and negative feedback from them. Lastly, make sure they know that you can’t wait to walk with them through whatever new pursuit they’ve embarked upon, how proud you are of them and that you have every confidence in them! Know that you’ve prepared them well, and because of your love, intentionality and support, they’re ready for whatever lies ahead.