Prepping for preschool


Seven secrets for success :::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

photos courtesy of Paige Hobey Classmates Bailey Hobey, left, and Alexander Sekulic are ready for preschool.

Your daughter still thinks Teletubbies are the pinnacle of sophisticated humor, but already she's starting school. Hard to believe, but true. The beginning of preschool is always a significant transition for children, says Nancy Sadek, outgoing learning specialist at St. James School in Lincoln Park, but there are ways to help emotionally prepare a child.

Opening day may be just around the corner, but it's not too late to help ease your child's transition with these parent-tested secrets for success from Sadek and Joanne Sekulic, a family and marriage therapist and mother of a soon-to-be-preschooler:

• Talk it up. Frame preschool as a supersized play date and she'll head into it with excitement. Enthusiastically point out her school building as you drive by, play pretend preschool with her stuffed animals and read books about school-time adventures. Discuss activities she can expect, from story time to snacks. Keep the conversation light and positive; children quickly pick up on parental apprehension.

• Focus on friends. Preschool is largely about socialization. If none of your child's friends will be in her class, ask the teacher for the names of a few classmates and set up play dates in advance to ensure your child will see at least one familiar face on day one.

• Adjust sleep schedules. Compare your child's sleep schedule to her preschool timing. Any conflicts? If she usually wakes at 8:15 a.m. and the school day starts at 8:30 a.m., start moving up her bedtime now.

• Go shopping. Most preschoolers are mini-fashionistas, with surprisingly strong opinions about what they wear each day. Build your child's enthusiasm for school by letting her pick out a first day outfit or backpack.

• Visit the school in advance. Attend all orientation sessions or just stop by the school with your child to check out the playground and any open classrooms. If possible, introduce her to her teacher in a calm setting before that crazy first day.

• Make the first day fun. Initiate a morning routine, and include a favorite toy or family photo in her backpack. Don't arrive at the school too early (no need to drag out the process), and plan to stay for a while. Explore the classroom together, greet the teacher and meet your child's classmates. Engage her in an activity, then calmly say goodbye. Ideally, leave with a group of parents so your child doesn't feel individually deserted. Keep your attitude upbeat.

• Be on time. And whatever you do, don't be late for afternoon pickup. Paige Hobey

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