Is Your Child Ready to Start Preschool?
Must-Haves for the First Day
Early education is an essential step in helping childhood development, by accelerating problem-solving abilities and interpersonal skills. Since every person is unique, the exact timing for starting preschool is dependent on each child’s own development. But there are some fundamental indicators that will help you understand the right moment to enroll your child in preschool or early childhood education.
Most children begin preschool between the ages of 3-5. The Government of Alberta has specifically defined guidelines that qualify early childhood services (ECS) as appropriate and reliable providers.
Although it is reasonable that young children and toddlers may have challenges going to the bathroom, most preschools will expect your child to be potty trained. This means that your child can reliably use a toilet on their own without supervision, and that they can be trusted to finish the process without too much of a mess on their clothes or in the bathroom.
A preschool is a place for fun learning and meaningful interaction. That being said, the success of an entire classroom relies on some rules being followed by everyone in the environment. It is expected that children enrolled in preschool are familiar with simple instructions (3-5 words), and have an awareness of belonging to a group. More detailed expectations from a teacher’s perspective are described here.
Your Child’s Emotional Maturity
Children can be especially sensitive to environmental changes, so understanding the emotional challenges of preschool will help determine what category of care your child is most ready for. Things to pay attention to when selecting the best preschool format are:
- Separation Anxiety, which is very common among young children. But even infants and toddlers with a high degree of separation anxiety are expected to recover, as they enter the age range for preschool and prepare for extended periods away from maternal or paternal care.
- Interaction with Peers and social development skills (also known as emotional intelligence). Is your child able to make positive social connections with strangers? Does your child display a low level of aggressive behaviour in social settings? These are attributes necessary for successful integration into a preschool environment.
By surveying your child’s ability to manage these emotions, you can decide what type of service best agrees with their comfort level:
This type of ECS more closely simulates a school day beyond the Kindergarten level. Preschools within this category will usually last between 6-7 hours, with designated meal and nap sessions. Some studies have shown positive academic development when a child is exposed to full days of early education prior to primary school enrollment.
Usually no more than 3 hours of continuous classroom activity, this type of preschool schedule is ideal for toddlers still developing comfort away from a parent or home environment. Most preschools will offer both a morning or afternoon schedule, allowing for flexibility in parent’s work commitments and other child care needs.
[young boy dressed as a sailor holding binoculars while sitting in a cardboard box imagining a paper plane flying away]
Successful Transition into Preschool
How to Prepare Your Child
Your child will likely need some help to get the most out of their initial preschool experience. Complicated processes can become simple tasks for a toddler who is properly prepared.
Take a Tour
Engaging with your child’s very first teacher can be a great way to understand specific preschool expectations. Understanding the physical layout of the classroom will allow you to simulate preschool exercises at home, leading to more success for your child. Consider organizing your home in a manner that mirrors some elements of your child’s preschool.
Practise Makes Perfect
Repetition in routine will make your child more comfortable for that first week of preschool. Take the time before your son or daughter’s first day of ECS to create some habits that will help them succeed in the classroom. Along with a sturdy backpack, following these guidelines will ensure that your child is ready for the first day of preschool.