Whether your child has a few months of preschool under his belt or will be entering school in the near future, you may find yourself wondering what you can do to help him have the best possible experience. With the help of Fishers resident Debra Pierce, Professor of Early Childhood Education at Ivy Tech Community College, we’ve listed ten “musts” for having a successful year.
1. Do a little social prep work before your child starts preschool. Parents can help ease children in to the social aspect of preschool by giving them some extra practice during play dates with other children, says Pierce. She also recommends getting your child as excited as possible about starting school, and if feasible, taking him or her for an introductory visit to meet the teacher and see the environment.
2. Don’t be too concerned about academics for children in the preschool age group.“Their job right now is to play and to learn through play,” says Pierce. She notes the two most important predictors of reading success and early vocabulary growth are reading to your child regularly and carrying on conversations with him or her.
3. Avoid sneaking out at drop-off time. Create a short goodbye ritual that ends in your leaving, that is repeated each day. While Pierce says this approach doesn’t guarantee a tear-free exit, predictability makes the transition easier because the child knows what to expect.
4. Dress your child in play clothes. “Children learn through their senses and need to get into stuff to learn,” says Pierce. “If they are in good clothes, they will be stifled from participating.”
5. Spend time in your child’s classroom. By doing so, you can learn firsthand what’s going on there. Research shows parental involvement in school is critical to a child’s development and academic success.
6. Help the teacher better understand your child. Pierce encourages parents to let teachers know about changes or events at home that might affect the child’s behavior or mood. “We are tuned in to each of the children in our care and notice when things are a bit off,” she says. “Help us out so we can be the supportive and caring teachers you expect us to be.”
7. Don’t project your fears onto your child. Preschool children look to adults when deciding how to react to situations explains Pierce. “You never know if your child may end up being an entomologist and you wouldn’t want to foil that career by screaming over a spider on the playground!”
8. Keep sick kids home. Licensing requires that a child be fever-free for at least 24 hours before returning to school. If a child is not feeling well, parents should assess whether she is going to be able to have a good time that day or just go through the motions.
9. Don’t ask for personal information on other students or families. Pierce notes that she is bound by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) Code of Ethics to maintain confidentiality of sensitive information. She adds, “Be glad I choose ethical practice and will not share anything you tell me about your family either.”
10. Pick your child up on time. “Although young children may not yet tell time, their inner clock absolutely knows when you are expected and they feel betrayed and mistrustful when you let them down,” says Pierce.
Following these ten simple tips should help make school days easier and more fun not only for your preschooler, but for you and the teacher as well!