Watching a child grow up is one of the most rewarding aspects of parenthood. Although every parent wants to see a child grow and succeed, it can also be hard to see them become more independent—which is especially true when a child starts school for the very first time.

Helping children transition to preschool is a big deal for the child! For many, this moment will be the most time they have ever spent separated from the familiarity of their family. There are a few things that parents can do to help prepare their tot for their first voyage into the academic world.

Practice Makes Perfect

Putting children in an organized learning environment can help them adapt to a school environment. You can accomplish this goal via a variety of tactics and venues. A weekly music class or a Sunday school class can be a good first step. These examples require the child’s attention in a classroom setting—but only for short periods of time.

Some other options for acclimating a child to the classroom environment include a daycare (that specializes in school preparation) or a youth sport (such as a swimming class). Once the child is used to learning in a group setting, they’ll be less distressed by a foreign environment.

Utilize Technology

Today, there are a great many resources available for kids that their parents may not have had. Many smart phone apps and tablet games can help make learning fun for children. Games can teach the alphabet, colors, shapes, and even artistic literacy. However, children shouldn’t play with tablets instead of interacting with the physical world. Rather, these devices can serve to supplement the child’s life experience.

Since technology is so common, children are often expected to know more when they start elementary school. By teaching them technological literacy when they’re very young, you can also start teaching them safe, healthy internet habits.

Develop a Routine

Having a routine helps children feel more secure. Develop a morning routine that includes getting ready, eating a healthy breakfast, and mentally preparing for the day of learning ahead. Then do something productive during the day.

Even before the child actually goes to school, parents and children can go to a museum or go see a grandparent or other family member. Then develop an evening routine with a standard dinner time, playtime, television time, bath time, and early bedtime.

By sticking with a routine, your little one will feel more secure because he or she knows what to expect. This way, only a small portion of the child’s day would change upon starting school, as opposed to the entire day. This feeling of security can play an important role during this big transition.

Celebrate Diversity

It’s likely that all children will meet people who’re different than them in preschool. Teach them to celebrate these differences while they’re still very young. Encourage them to interact with children from different family units and other walks of life. Talk about culture in a simple, positive way—which allows them to see the beauty of these differences. Encourage them to try new foods and experience new things.

Teaching a child to have an open mind is an absolutely invaluable skill. It’s something that they can take with them throughout their entire lives. It can also help them to be excited about new experiences, rather than being fearful of them.

Don't Linger

Many parents make this mistake. When the big day comes, keep goodbyes short and sweet. Try taking pictures at home before leaving, or take them after the day is over. Do not let the child see your emotions. You will be proud, but you may also be a bit sad.

It’s not good to give the child a chance to panic. Generally, it’s easier to calm the child after the parent is gone. They’re easily distracted, so they’ll start getting curious about what’s going on around them. Think of it like ripping off a Band-Aid.

You can even practice this skill with the child ahead of time. If the child already attends daycare or has any time separate from you, do not linger. Say goodbye, let them know you are proud of them, compliment them for how grown up they are, and leave.

Then in nearly all cases, you’ll pick up a smiling face at the end of the day.

Listen

The first day of school is important for the child. Make sure that you listen to what they want to talk about after the day is over. React with interest and excitement. Then they’ll be extra excited about the second day. Ask for details, and encourage positive talk about the school. Remember, the transition doesn’t stop after the first day. Getting used to something new is a process.

If the child had a rough first day, focus on the positives. Was there something they really liked? Maybe there was a song or craft that really piqued their interest. Let them know you are looking forward to seeing what they learn the next day. Through imitation, this tactic teaches and reinforces good listening skills.

Explore

Learning never stops. Never forget the age of your child. They need to explore and experience life. So allow them to.

The structure of the classroom is vital, but so is learning in other environments. Anything that a parent can do to supplement a child's classroom learning should be highly encouraged. Help them create art and make music. Read to them. All of these things have been scientifically proven to build cognitive development. It will also strengthen their confidence and reinforce a positive view of the world.

Transitioning to preschool can be a scary, emotional time. Helping children transition can be done in a subtle way with day-to-day changes, such as:

·         Developing a routine

·         Teaching a positive outlook about learning and life

Best of luck on your journey!