Excitement. Trepidation. Uncertainty. Doubt. Nervousness. Anxiety. Stress. Fear. And that’s just how some parents feel ahead of their three-year old starting day care. Imagine all the emotions your little one is feeling!
Of course, not everyone is daunted by the idea of starting day care or kindy, but we do know from experience that preparing your child for this new experience can make the world of difference to how well they separate from you and settle in to their new environment.
This article provides some tried and tested tips for parents and caregivers on how to prepare three-year olds for their first day at kindergarten.
Getting a three-year old ready for starting kindy
Even if your own emotions are running riot, it’s really, really important to put on a brave face. Your child will be looking to you for cues and reassurance, so maintaining a positive, relaxed, enthusiastic and excited attitude is paramount.
Here are some great suggestions to help prepare your child for starting kindergarten - and they’ll help give parents peace-of-mind too!
Before the big day
Stay relaxed. Your little one will be mirroring your behaviour, so as the saying goes - keep calm and carry on!
Look for teachable moments about day care and kindergarten and bring the topic up frequently in conversation. For example, point out a childcare centre when you’re in the car with your child and remark on how happy and busy the children look. When you’re doing a fun activity with your child, remind them that kindergarten is a place where they can do all their favourite things.
Ease those first day jitters while getting your child excited about the fun, new adventures ahead by reading books together about starting school. Ask your local library for ideas, otherwise you’re welcome to ask our friendly team at Evoke Early Learning for suggestions. Some of our favourite titles are ‘Starting School’ by Jane Godwin and Anna Walker, ‘Benjamin Comes Back’ by Amy Brandt & Janice Lee Porter and ‘My First Day at School’ by Meredith Costain.
Chat often about what they can expect (the more they know about their new routine the better) and reassure them that it’s perfectly normal to feel worried or uncertain. Remind them that they are special, loved and unique and that they’ll be loved and cared for at their new school.
If your child is feeling insecure, ask them to choose something special from home that they can take with them to childcare. A transitional object like a soft toy, favourite book, security blanket or family photo is a really good way of helping to ease any separation anxiety and provide reassurance.
Discuss a plan with the child care centre as to how they will handle any settling in or separation issues. Empower your child to handle their own situation by suggesting coping strategies if they’re feeling nervous or worried such as talking to their teacher, retreating to a quiet space where they can acknowledge their feelings and regain control, reading a book, finding a friend etc.
You can also create a sense of ‘connectedness’ between you and your child by each keeping a small object (like a pebble) with you when they go off to school. If they’re missing you, they can feel the item in their pocket and know that you are feeling that same special object and thinking about them.
On the day your child starts school
Help your child feel a sense of control by allowing them to choose some items of clothing to wear (you can even set them out the evening before to create a sense of excitement).
Give yourself plenty of time on the first day. If you are going into the office afterwards, it’s a good idea to alert your employer that you may be late. A rushed departure can exacerbate any feelings of anxiety or stress, so you want plenty of time to settle your youngster in.
Try and engage your child in an activity of their choice.
Always say goodbye when it’s time to go. While it may be tempting to sneak off when they’re distracted for fear of causing distress, it’s never a good idea. This can lead to feelings of mistrust and uncertainty. Reassure your child as to when you will next see them, say goodbye and then leave. As hard as it may be to make the break, a prolonged departure can add to the stress, so once you’ve said your first goodbye, you need to leave quickly, calmly, confidently and always with a smile!
Creating a consistent routine for going to kindergarten
One of the most effective ways of handling separation stresses is to have a consistent drop-off routine. When your child knows what to expect, they feel more secure and more confident in their own abilities.
A last word on how to prepare your three-year old for kindy
Transitions can be challenging for children and starting kindergarten is a significant change in any child’s life. Talking through what’s going to happen with your three-year old and preparing them for this next stage is an effective way of easing the transition and allaying separation anxiety.
If your child is enrolled to start at one of our Evoke Early Learning Centres, no doubt you will already know of our comprehensive kindergarten orientation programme which includes strategies for parents and children to ease the transition into the new environment. You’re also welcome to contact our friendly team at Evoke Clayton or Evoke Albert Park if you’d just like a chat about how to prepare your child for their first day at day care or kindergarten.