“It’s a three-way road.” Rashi from XISS, Ranchi, has taken an uncharted course for someone with an MBA-psychoanalysis and research for young kids.
Simply put, she sheds light into things that we don’t lay much focus on when it comes to kids getting ready for playschool.
She elaborates on her ‘three-way road’ strategy for preschool preparation.
Let’s explore these preschool preparation tips in detail:
1) Psychologically ready
“This is what we call separation anxiety,” says Rashi. The first step to getting your child ready for preschool is handling separation anxiety for yourself and then for the child.
The reason why we need to handle the anxiety for ourselves first is because we are more stressed about the child stepping out of home. He/she knows nothing about what’s about to happen and anxiety is passed on through parents.
- Don’t drop the bomb
Rashi says that parents don’t talk to the child about preschool but usually just announce it. I was about to refute her since I believe I definitely talked to my child when she explained that we might think that explaining the idea of going to school to the child means talking to them.
But isn’t a conversation meant to be two-way? Since ours is mostly a one-way conversation where toddlers and preschoolers only respond by cooing and monosyllables, it can be looked upon as an announcement. So what’s to be done?
- Non-verbal cues
“Look for things that they don’t usually do.” Rashi says that after we discuss the idea of going to school with the child, we should watch out for any change in his/her body language.
“Kids convey hints all the time, only if we are smart enough to get them,” says Rashi. If your child is doing something out of the ordinary, try and get to the root of the matter.
An example in this case would be the tendency of seeking attention by demanding physical touch and wanting to accompany the parent everywhere.
“Since you’ve told them that they will be going to school, preschoolers want to stick with you longer. They are scared,” explains Rashi.
- Verbal cues
“They will tell you, not directly maybe, but they will,” says Rashi. An idea that has gone viral in recent times, to make already stressed parents feel guiltier, is that parents only hear children, but don’t really listen to them.
Although not every parent is accountable of this sin, most of us do sometimes listen to our children’s worries dismissively without real intent. This does nothing to reassure them that things will get better.
Rashi says that children always tell their parents their concerns but may not express themselves very clearly. While gearing up for preschool, parents should be all ears to listen to these concerns and should actually try and solve them.
- Play a game
Enact a preschool scene at home everyday before your child starts school. You can involve a few other children in this play too. Just get the children to imagine that they are in school and you are the teacher. Do fun stuff and also make them learn things as they would in a real school.
Rashi says that most children come out with their fears or apprehensions after such games. Even if they don’t have fears, they are able to communicate their excitement about going to school better through enactment and drama. No harm trying it. Right? And it’s perfect for preschool preparation!
The following are a few recommended books to help you understand the psychology of a preschooler. The tips will help you recognise verbal as well as non-verbal cues.
- Psychology of Pre-school Children by A V Zaporozhets
This is a comprehensive book covering the psychologies of children from birth till they turn seven or eight. Sensory development of children is given most importance to while touching upon visual and behavioural communication with them.
A good read for those who want to a deeper understanding of children’s minds and preschool preparation.
- The Absorbent Mind by Maria Montessori
This one is quite a famous title that talks about the Montessori style of teaching. It focuses on individual needs of each child and not on the one-size-fits-all strategy. A must read for those who want to interact with their kids in a more educative way.
2) Physically ready
“Physiology goes hand in hand with psychology.” Rashi says a very effective way of making children psychologically ready for preschool is by making them physically independent.
This independence does not come from major things, but from minor achievements. So, what are these achievements?
- Wipe and clean
“Wiping their own face and hands improves finger dexterity plus gives them a sense of freedom,” says Rashi.
She suggests that we place the child in front of a mirror and playfully teach him/her how to wipe his/her face, clean hands, and generally wipe himself/herself clean. Don’t forget to mention that he/she can try this even if mamma/papa is around to do it for them.
Making a fun time activity out of this lesson will ease your child towards preschool preparation and independence.
- Zip it up
“He would get his pinky finger stuck each time so I bought him only elastic-waist jeans,” says Aarti about her four-year-old. Toddlers and preschoolers have a tough time zipping up or buttoning up their own clothes.
Although it’s perfectly normal to expect their teachers to care of these aspects in school, you could teach them a few tips at home. Thus, reducing their apprehensions about school.
Use zipper pouches or your old jeans to teach them how to zip and unzip things. For buttoning, just give daddy’s office shirt and that’ll get the job started.
- Pack my bag
You should practise packing a school bag with your child as part of preschool preparation. Make him/her pack fun things like a favourite lunch box, napkin, wet wipes (in case you use them), a spare set of clothes (the favourite colour if possible), some attractive stationery, and so on.
Note that this packing is irrespective of the fact that most schools already provide these basics. This kind of prep work makes your little one look forward to school, plus makes him/her independent.
- Don’t drop a drop
My son would need a change of clothes everyday in the first month of playschool. He would wet his pants, not due to a pee-pee leak but due to the water spill. He just couldn’t manage his water bottle. I changed the bottle and got him to practise opening the new bottle several times.
Using a water bottle without dripping or spilling water is a simple yet important skill to look into before your child starts preschool.
- Packed lunch
You should start packing lunch in a lunch box at home a few days before school begins. Children enjoy the thrill of spreading their napkin, opening their own tiffin box, and eating independently out of it.
This activity makes them want to go to school, readies them for independent eating, and frees them from emotional doubts about school, if any.
- Potty training
This one is not an overnight task, plus it’s one of the key expectations parents have from preschools. However, starting to train your child to use the bathroom by himself/herself at home is strongly suggested by most counsellors.
Rashi says that before teachers start potty training in school, parents can initiate practising at home so as to make the experience easier.
There are children who are potty-trained a little after age one, but most kids extend potty training up to two or two-and-a-half years during which time they have already started playschool. Practising at home first, reduces their fears of potty training.
To gear up yourself and your children for preschool, especially in the physical aspects of things, here are a few books that you can read:
- Teaching Montessori in the Home: Pre-School Years: The Pre-School Years by Elizabeth G. Hainstock
This book is like a do-it-yourself Montessori kit where you get a comprehensive idea about how to develop your child’s soft skills at home.
Also offering an understanding of the Montessori style of free-learning, it’s a good read for those parents who want to work on the basics of reading and math before formal schooling begins.
- How to Pee: Potty Training for Boys by Todd Spector
To say that this is a fun read will be an understatement! Imagine teaching your boy how to pee cowboy style? This is a wonderful book for those who want a stress-free way of getting rid of diapers for boys.
- Once Upon a Potty: Girl/Boy Board book by Alona Frankel
This board book for the little Einstein getting bored sitting on the pot! With illustrations galore, this book can be read to children during potty time, to make it a less scary affair. In short, it’s a fun way to get rid of their fears related to potty training.
3) Socially ready
Psychological and physical aspects aside, there is the third aspect that parents should look into before preschool. This is the social life of a child!
“His playschool gang was so large, I was attending a birthday party every fortnight,” says Aarti, the mother of the elastic jeans guy.
Meeting and interacting with new people, greeting teachers, and being affable are a set of traits that preschool children must start learning. This sets a good foundation for the many years of formal schooling as well as for life. Let’s take these aspects one by one:
A sing-song ‘Good morning teacher’ is a standard line for every child, preschooler or not. How about teaching children to greet at home before they start school? Rashi says that parents can initiate discussions about going to school by enacting these greetings.
Some of them are good morning, have a nice day, hello/hi (when meeting a new friend) and bye/goodbye while taking leave. It’s just a polite way to draw kids towards the upcoming school life.
Does your child laugh if you take a fall at home? Most children don’t laugh at parents. If we slip or fall, they show concern or just look on. However, when it comes to other kids, children somehow learn to laugh. Checking this tendency starts here—at the preschool level.
Lessons on empathy, which is nothing but understanding other people’s pains, need to begin at home. Start talking about aspects of empathy before the child starts school, so that we bring up a generation of empathising human beings. Agreed?
- Friends not groups
“Just as they are settling in school, parents should talk about avoiding groups,” says Rashi. She believes that the idea of making smaller groups within an existing group of students leads to a few children feeling left out, which is not conducive towards positive self-esteem.
Just so that your child settles in school, you should not promote the ideas of sit with your friends; make a group, best friends and so on. You should stick with “Everybody is a friend” till they grow old enough to refute your ideas.
Well, at that age they might be refuting almost every idea of yours, no?
Some final words
Since most parents are learning parenting on the job, expert tips are always welcome. More expert tips on preschool preparation can be accessed through this last recommendation, a book that talks about all aspects of preschool years:
The Preschool Years: Family Strategies That Work from Experts and Parents by Ellen, David, Judy Galinsky.
So, if you’re a parent for whom preschool is just around the corner, you’re all set!
Tell us what preschool preparation you did for your little one. Leave your suggestions below.
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