In my 35 years as an early childhood educator, I’ve developed an intrinsic understanding of how children can most benefit from the preschool environment and distilled a lot of tactics for making the days run more smoothly and ensuring the children get the most out of their time with me.
To this end, there are a few very simple facts that I wish all parents knew when sending their child to preschool, because understanding these truths makes life a whole lot easier for educators like myself.
There are so many moving parts at a preschool and we have a lot of children and parents that we need to consider, so here is my wish list. If you’re a parent, trust me, we’re very grateful for you reading on…
8 key facts for parents to remember:
Children can Behave Differently in Group Situations
If I had a dime for every time that I’ve had a parent say to me: “but Johnny doesn’t do that at home”, I would be an extremely wealthy woman!
Children often behave very differently at home to how they behave at preschool. We can’t presume that a child won’t do something at preschool just because they don’t at home, or vice versa. A child may, for example, be generous and caring at preschool but have difficulty displaying the same behaviors at home, or the other way around.
Preschool should be embraced by parents as a great opportunity for children to be exposed to a variety of people, environments and experiences. This could be the first time your child has been involved with a large group of children. They will be supported in many group experiences to develop lifelong social skills. Some experiences will be more challenging than others, but that is how we grow, develop and build resilience.
A Lot More Happens at Preschool than Your Child Lets On
“What did you do today?”
How often have we all heard this response from children?! As a parent, you know that children do sometimes get moody and parents often get this answer right through the teenage years. But in Preschool we do a heck of a lot every single day!
Look around the preschool for the displays or photos, which can be a starter for conversations. They may sing a song in the car which will tell you a little more without asking a question. Sometimes they may be feeling too tired to talk or answer questions. We have all experiences like this. Look for other signs: look at your child’s not-so-clean clothes and hair and tired face – they’ve had a good day.
A Few Minutes of Preparation Makes a Huge Difference to Us
For example, please send spare clothes with your child to preschool. Accidents and mess at preschool are inevitable. Make sure these clothes are clearly labelled.
The preschool’s spare clothes are typically kept in another room away from the bathroom, which means one staff member is taken away temporarily from the children. In reality this is quite difficult to manage, but greatly helped if your child’s belongings are accessible and well-labelled. It is very easy for things to become chaotic, so these little touches really help us!
Additionally, your child prefers to be in their own clothes. If they have had an accident, we want to be able to reassure your child and make them as comfortable as possible as quickly as possible.
The Clothes You Dress Your Child in Make a Huge Impact on their Day (and Ours!)
Dress your child in loose fitting clothes. I find jeans are difficult for little fingers to unbutton and zip down. I know they need to learn this skill, but when they are busy and leave it to the last minute…
Where possible, an elastic waist is ideal. It’s not just about being easy for teachers; an elastic waist gives your child a sense of independence, too.
Allow time to read your preschool’s sun smart policy. We recommend children wear a dress or T-shirt with short sleeves to protect their shoulders. Otherwise we will need to change to more appropriate clothing before going outside.
Send your child to preschool in well-fitting shoes. For similar reasons to jeans, boots are difficult at preschool. Sneaker-style shoes with Velcro straps gives the best support to children when they are running and climbing. It’s also hugely helpful to us; can you imagine tying up 20 pairs of little laces all the time? I can!
If your child is dressing him or herself now, check that they have socks on. This helps us to avoid painful blisters and nasty foot odor at rest time.
Have clothes that are designated as “for preschool only”. We will think that you are very practical and extremely thoughtful to both your child and us. Neither child, nor teacher, should have to worry about getting clothes dirty. The last thing we need is to turn preschool into a fashion statement!
Your Child Looks Forward to your Arrival (But this can be Distracting)
If you arrive at group time, then please come and join in. This will allow you to experience life at preschool first hand. More importantly, your child will enjoy this time together and they will not be distracted by knowing that you are close by.
If you said that you will be picking up your child earlier (for example, after lunch) please arrive on time as your child will be expecting you. Unexpected delays can happen, but a phone call will alleviate their concerns.
Please Arrive Before Closing Time
Please aim to arrive ten minutes before closing time. This allows time to collect your child’s belongings, talk to the teacher and be ready to depart at closing time.
A teacher’s day does not finish when the children leave. We have meetings, room preparation, lesson planning and many other things we need to do to be ready for the next day. By being timely, you’re helping us to get back to our families too.
Your Family Secret is No Longer a Secret
Children become very excited when they have news and love to share. If you have a family secret, do not tell your child unless you are happy and prepared for the whole world to know. I cannot stress this enough!
Very often we need to act surprised when you tell us there is a new baby on the way. It’s a little awkward.
If Your Child is Sick at Home, Your Child will be Sick at Preschool
Our first priority is the wellbeing of your child, the other children and the educators. Sometimes symptoms are first exhibited at preschool and we will do our utmost to care for your child until you arrive. However, if symptoms appear at home, the best place for their recovery is at home.
If you are seeing a doctor, please ask for a clearance letter to resume preschool. This is in everybody’s best interests.
If your child has had medicine in the morning, then your child is not well enough to attend preschool. It is likely that the symptoms will reappear a few hours later, at which time you will get a phone call to come collect your child.
Would you be upset if another parent sent their child to preschool while sick? Most likely – I understand that taking a day off work can be inconvenient, but it’s all part of being a member of a community – and at the end of the day we all want what’s best for our kids.
Thanks so much for reading this article; just taking these points on board will make a big difference for the staff at your child’s preschool!