The first day of preschool is a very big deal. There are new friends to meet, new routines to get used to, and maybe new shoes to wear!
But the prep for preschool has less to do with superficial stuff and everything to do with the skills your kid needs to thrive in a classroom. So, go through this list and find the challenges your child may face. Then look for ways to help make the transition, fine-tune your preschooler’s strengths, and smooth over the rough spots.
Preschool challenge: Making friends and learning to work alongside others
What to ask yourself: Does my child play well with peers? Which is more her style: One-on-one playdates or group play? Can she take turns and share?
What you need to know: Kids with social skills will thrive in preschool.
How to help your child: Make playdates. Monitor interactions. Encourage one-on-one and group play.
What to do next: Play games that require taking turns and sharing.
Check out sports, art, music, dance, and other group activities where your child can practice new skills, pay attention to a coach, and learn to ignore distractions. Try to meet the teacher and future classmates ahead of time to boost your child’s confidence and comfort level in class.
Preschool challenge: Listening to and communicating with others
What to ask yourself: When he’s around other children, does my child really listen to what his friends are saying? Can he express his feelings? Does he give—and take?
What you need to know: Communication skills are a work in progress.
How to help your child: Model active listening. Nod, cup your ear, give your kid a big thumbs-up, or a wink and an OK, to let him know you’re listening. Encourage him to do the same.
What to do next: Play games that require listening, timing, and patience. Try classics like Simon Says; Red Light, Green Light; Telephone; and Mother, May I? Or wing it with a freeze dance. Tell a group story. Toss out a word, any word. Let your child repeat that word and add another word that makes sense in context. For example, if you say pony, she can say tail. If you say chicken, she can say legs or wings.
Preschool challenge: Independence and self-reliance
What to ask yourself: Can my child open a container, unwrap a sandwich, wash and dry her hands, zip her backpack, or wiggle in and out of a sweater or jacket?
What you should know: Practice makes (almost) perfect.
How to help your child: Encourage your soon-to-be preschool learner to dress herself, be responsible for her belongings, and help with chores, such as picking up her toys, clearing dishes from the table, and putting used paper goods in the trash or recycling bin. Activities like these boost independence and self-reliance.
What to do next: Ease in a few more chores. Your child can make a bed, wipe a counter, feed a pet, mop up spills, fold the laundry, and more.
Preschool challenge: Self-control and regulation
What to ask yourself: Can my kid sit through circle time? Play outdoors without wandering off? Keep his hands to himself and not annoy others?
What you need to know: These skills are uber-important.
How to help your child: Teach your kid self-talk. Practice phrases like “I can listen at story time” or “I can pay attention to my teacher.” Talk about how much better he’ll feel if he uses words instead of lashing out in anger or melting down, which make matters worse.
What to do next: Play games that reinforce inhibition (see activities above). Even more important: Don’t duck situations that may be difficult for your child to handle. He needs practice. Identify a task (or challenge) and coach him through it. Give him breaks, monitor his progress, and praise his efforts and results.