The start of the Preschool year is an extremely busy time for all involved in setting up and welcoming the incoming children.
And the first impression that we give to the new children and parents is critical.
This is why we place so much stock in holding an amazing orientation day – one that will reassure the children that they are safe in the preschool environment, as well as increasing their comfort level with their new surroundings. At the same time, it’s about conveying useful information to parents that they need to know in advance of their child’s first day.
In the past, I have usually held two separate orientation days, in order to ensure we can achieve 100% attendance. Parents aren’t always able to make one specific day, so I have found giving the option of two days provides them sufficient flexibility to attend one of them. However, if your parents are able to make on a single day this might not be necessary.
The purpose of this guide is to provide a blueprint for setting up an effective, welcoming, orientation that will make the transition to preschool as smooth as possible, while also reducing the pressure on you and your colleagues.
The first and most important thing you need to do is ensure the families are fully aware of the orientation day; if they don’t attend, they are missing a valuable opportunity to dive straight into preschool life.
So make sure you send the relevant information to your incoming children’s parents – whether by post or email – and make sure they confirm their attendance with the preschool. In addition, take this opportunity to get the preliminary paperwork completed.
Make sure you gather all the information you need from your parents, including photocopies of ID and other records including health and immunization records.
When you send their orientation invitation, enclose all the relevant paperwork you need returned and ask them to complete it and bring it in on the orientation day.
There is a lot of administrative work to do in preparation for the preschool year, but the focus needs to remain on the children. Accordingly, the main action on orientation day is allowing the children to play and make new friends.
On the day:
I have always found it best to use two rooms for the orientation for different purposes. The first room is for orientation, information and play, while the second is dedicated to individual family interviews.
Set up the first room so that there is a specific section dedicated as a play area for the children, supervised at all times by a member of staff. As they arrive, the children are introduced to the staff and led to the play area.
In another part of the room is a second section, where parents are provided with all the relevant information they need to prepare for the first day. In addition, at this point, have the parents place their name beside an interview time (these usually work in 15 minute increments).
To make the process as straightforward as possible, I suggest putting out tables, with example items of what the children are required to bring to preschool. This includes (but is not limited to): school bags, lunch boxes, sheets, sun hats and sun appropriate clothing.
In addition, we display large posters, containing information relevant to these items (what is acceptable and what isn’t), using pictures as a visual guide. For example, we had pictures of acceptable and unacceptable shoes, hats, clothes, etc.
I have always found that illustrations and photos were the best way to convey this message, alongside an explanation of why certain items were not appropriate to be taken or worn to preschool.
In order to make the interviews flow smoothly through the second room, as each family’s time comes up, just call out for them and they will be able to come straight in.
We usually have three teachers conducting individual interviews, taking each family in turn into the room. This way, we get through twelve families per hour and they don’t need to stay around all day and can get to their other commitments.
The child should attend the interview with their parents as well. This helps them understand some of what is required of them as well as getting to know their teacher a little better and perhaps, they will remember something their parents forget!
At this interview, it’s important to go over the following points to ensure the parents have a clear understanding of the policies and procedures of your preschool, as well as what to expect on the first day:
- Suitable clothing to wear to preschool (it’s important to reiterate this as much as possible)
- What to do on the first day (where and when to turn up, what to bring, what not to bring)
- Prior preparations that they need to undertake, or information they need to provide, before their first day
- Daily routines – what happens and when, especially if they will need to bring special items into the preschool
- Introduction to all relevant staff
- An overview of relevant center policies, as well as information on where they can be found in full
- Discussion and provision of information about the role of parents as helpers and how they might be able to get involved in the life of the preschool
- The philosophy of the preschool and you as an educator.
Provide each child, as they arrive, a stick-on name tag. This will allow the staff to interact with each child by name, as well as facilitating the taking of quiet notes as they observe the children playing. These notes will help inform your teaching approach towards specific children and can assist in your preparation.
I hope that this guide has given you all you need to pull off a really great orientation day. If you need any further ideas or you have any questions, please get in touch. I’d love to hear from you.