Like many parents, Judith Carrasco gets a little anxious at the beginning of each school year.
“My daughter, every year she goes to school I’m a little nervous to drop her off,” Carrasco said of her 7-year-old daughter, who is entering third grade.
Carrasco’s annual angst actually serves her well professionally: she can relate to the parents dropping off their children for the first time at La Petite Academy, the Los Angeles preschool where she is the director.
With the beginning of the school year just around the corner, Carrasco said it is not too late for parents to prepare their children – and themselves – for their first experience in preschool. Carrasco and Los Angeles Universal Preschool (LAUP) trainer Carolina Valdovinos shared their tips below, which are followed by several resources for children and parents alike.
TALK TO YOUR CHILDREN
“The main thing is that the parents communicate what’s coming for the child,” Carrasco said. “Many times we underestimate them because they are 2 or 3 years old and we think that they don’t understand. Tell them, ‘You are going to school. You’re going to have a good time doing many activities.’ Buy them backpacks together. Make it exciting. This helps them a lot.”
"The main thing is that the parents communicate what’s coming for the child. Many times we underestimate them because they are 2 or 3 years old and we think that they don’t understand." - Judith Carrasco
TAKE A TOUR TOGETHER
If you have the time, bring your child to the school at different times during the day for an hour or 90 minutes each day for a week, Carrasco said. Have them meet the teacher, interact with the other children and get engaged with activities so that they are able to feel part of the classroom.
If time is a factor, tour the preschool together at least once so your child has the chance to see what they are going to encounter.
“As parents prepare for their children to enter preschool, they must keep in mind that their daily routines may change,” Valdovinos explained. “For example, make sure children are well rested, take into account drop-off and pick-up times, and parent engagement activities including parent-teacher conferences, school activities or volunteering in the classroom.”
Before you take the tour, make a list of questions for when you meet with the teachers and school administrators. “Asking questions is number one,” Carrasco said. “There’s never a question that’s the wrong question to ask.”
SIT A SPELL
To combat separation anxiety on the part of children and parents alike, Carrasco said she lets parents stay in their child’s classroom for a full 10 minutes on the first day of preschool. Many preschools like La Petite Academy start the day off with activities laid out all over the classroom. Bring them to the activity table, help get them involved and then let them know you are going and that you are coming back.
“One of the problems I have is when a parent just leaves and the child turns around and they are gone,” Carrasco said. “The first thing the child is going to do is panic.”
Added Valdovinos: “To ease children in the transition to preschool, parents can include a family photo or transitional item in their backpack to provide comfort for the child while at preschool.”
Want more tips to prepare yourself and your child for that first day of preschool? Check out these articles, blogs and even children’s books to get your child off to their best start:
Parents.com - Goodbye Without Tears
Scholastic.com - Get Ready for the First Day of Preschool With Picture Books
National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) - 13 Tips for Starting Preschool
If you have a preschool preparation tip or experience you would like to share with other parents, please use our comments section below.