The first day of playgroup can be scary for children. The new surroundings, new faces, and new sounds can all be a bit overwhelming! However, there are quite a few things parents can do to help their child prepare and make their transition as easy as possible!
Here are some of the best tips I’ve learned during my time as the Director of Ilham Child Care, but more importantly, as a mother of four:
Develop a Routine with your Child at Home
Studies show that children thrive with routine. In fact, having set routines in the home can lead to a 47% increase in the odds that children will have high social-emotional health and good social skills!
At Ilham, we have a fixed time table that our centres will adhere to, and this certainly helps to make our youngest Ilhamites adapt a little faster. Our centres will also host an orientation at the start of each year to share about this new routine.
As a parent, I will always pay attention to how the daily routine will be like at playgroup and try to mimic that routine at home— even on the weekends.
There will be times you’ll need to be flexible with your schedule, and that’s ok! Just keeping things relatively similar from day-to-day can help a child know what to expect and feel more confident.
Prepare your Child Mentally
When preparing your child for playgroup, you should try to make as many positive associations as possible about school. For example, make getting ready in the morning an enjoyable bonding activity with your child. This will get them excited and put them in a positive headspace for their day.
When you bring the child out to the new centre for your first visit, make sure to continuously reassure them that they are going to have fun at school! Point out fun activities the other children are enjoying and talk about all of the fun things they will learn. It’s a good idea to take photos of the school and bring them out at home to continue talking to your child about their school.
You can also read storybooks about school to your children and pack their school bag together. They may be young, but the uncertainty might stress them out. Hence, the more positive bonding experiences you can create around school, the better your child will handle it when the day comes!
Never Use School as a Punishment
It’s very important to avoid scaring children about going to school. Even if you’re joking with your child, saying things such as “if you don’t listen, I may not fetch you today!” or “If you cry at drop-off, I’ll make you stay longer” can be incredibly damaging to a child’s confidence about starting school.
At Ilham, whenever a child cries upon drop off, our teachers will always make him or her feel even more comfortable by repeating reassuring words and helping them understand that mummy and daddy is going to work, so that they can learn and play with their friends in school.
Assure them that school is a positive place to go to. Sometimes, all they need is time and when the fun lessons begin, they will stop crying on their own!
Countdown to playgroup – what to do and when:
One to Two Weeks Before School Commences:
First, get your child involved in school preparation. Have them get their clothing and supplies ready. Have them pack their bag and pick a water bottle (make sure to label everything!). Giving them a small part in the preparation process physically will also help them prepare mentally.
Make sure you have also met with your child’s teacher to discuss your child’s special requests such as allergies if any, as well as your child’s temperament or traits (likes/dislikes), so they have an idea of what to expect and how to address your child’s needs.
The Night Before:
The night before school begins, talk in-depth about how the next morning will go. Answer any questions your child may have. Make sure they know you’ll be coming to pick them up at the end of the day and give them a lot of positive reassurance about how the day will go. Again, reiterate how much fun they’ll have learning and meeting new friends.
Then, get your child to sleep early! Being rested can have a big impact on how they handle things the next day.
On the First Day of School:
When the big day comes, it’s time to celebrate and stay positive! Discuss a ‘goodbye routine’ with your child, such as sharing a big hug, then a high-5, and then they’re off! Prolonging your goodbyes on the first day can cause a little emotional anxiety in your child, so keep it short and sweet.
Also, if you’re feeling anxious or sad about leaving your child, try to mask those emotions. If a child senses that you feel confident about leaving them at the centre, they’ll feel confident being there! Basically, your children will follow your lead.
It’s understandable for both parents and children to feel a little nervous about the first day of playgroup. But by following these guidelines, you and your child can feel more confident, more prepared and more positive about this important transition!