We've done a variety of things: The Kissing Hand book; an
inexpensive photo flip book with photos of the family to look at;
favorite stuffed friend; telling a story about what is going to
happen; showing a story of what is going to happen with pictures; a
goodbye ritual: 1 kiss, 1 hug, 1 "I love you" from each and then
time to go.
Holly Olmsted-Hickey, Downers Grove
Transitions are hard for children. We try to discuss with them
ahead of time what is on the family calendar and keep it posted on
the refrigerator. Arriving early to the planned activity/event
helps so they have time to acclimate. It helps our kids when we let
them know we will hang around for a little while as they get
settled. Then we are able to leave once they have become distracted
and involved in what is going on without their noticing or
Joy Slates, Aurora
Our daughter has a transition disorder so in order to prepare her
for change, we have to discuss it with her in advance and depending
on the nature of it, sometimes repeatedly until it is time. We
explain reasoning if necessary. Changes are never easy for her but
helping her to understand it truly helps us help her through
Laura Miller, Villa Park
When Julie Ramski, a former teacher, took a kindergartner to the
school bathroom, she couldn't figure out why it was taking him so
It turned out that in the boy's bathroom there were three
urinals and one stall, and the boys were waiting in line to use the
toilet. They had no experience using urinals.
Ramski, now director of early childhood programs in the
Archdiocese of Chicago's Office of Catholic Schools, says the
bathroom is something you need to put on the list of things to do
to prepare your child for preschool.
Plus, teach them how to zip up their pants.
It is important that children have a good experience in
preschool since it sets the tone for the rest of their early
education, even through eighth grade.
Here are some teacher tips on how parents can get children
1 Learn as much as you can about the
The most important thing is to know the preschool's philosophy,
background and staff, says DeeDee Farmer, a preschool teacher with
Longfellow Elementary School in Oak Park. "Get a feeling about what
the day is like and have a list of questions to ask to determine if
the preschool program fits the philosophy of your family," she
2 Visit the building.
A couple of weeks before preschool starts, visit the school
playground or the building itself, if the school allows. If not,
drive or walk to preschool a few times before class starts.
Children need to know what's going to happen: "When I leave home, I
am going to this place, and when I leave this place, I am going
home," says Farmer.
3 Establish a routine long before preschool starts,
At night, a child should go to bed at a reasonable hour to get
enough sleep. Set up a comforting bedtime ritual such as reading a
story or singing a song.
"The kids really thrive on structure," says Farmer. "Have a
bedtime ritual that is predictable, that the child can depend on,
so that the next day when it is time to go to school, he'll be
Establishing a routine in the morning is equally important.
Instead of waiting to pick out clothes that morning, choose them
the night before. Let your child be involved to eliminate arguments
about what to wear. Make sure they eat a healthy breakfast every
morning to make that a routine, too.
4 Establish a partnership with the preschool
When your child sees that you trust the teacher, they will feel
the same way.
5 Read books about preschool and separation
"Parents need to think about what phrases they are going to use
so that their children understand that they are going to go to
school or preschool," says Farmer.
6 Deal with separation anxiety.
Some kids adjust well, some don't. Farmer suggests parents not
say "goodbye.""It's hard for kids to say goodbye," Farmer says. "If
you use an abstract word, 'see you later,' it works better."
She also makes what she calls a mommy or daddy necklace. It's a
laminated picture of parents or other family members on a
7 Let them experience disappointment.
Jennifer Hanna, principal of Chicago Montessori, suggests
coaching kids on how to dress and undress. Give your child the
opportunity to do it.
"If you see a child really struggling and focusing on something
like putting on his shoes, you don't interrupt them," she says.
"The adult needs to back away from the child as much as he can.
When they have difficulty and they feel disappointment, parents can
encourage children by saying 'I understand that's disappointing…
but tomorrow we'll have another chance.'" It will let them develop
concentration and independence.
Also allow children to play without too much interference (20 to
30 minutes for a 3-year-old).
8 Talk to your kids and ask questions.
Being read to and learning new words is crucial for child
development. Ramski suggests a simple, inexpensive method for
expanding a child's vocabulary: going to a grocery store and
talking about foods and going to museums or downtown and talking
about the buildings, the lake and everything else you see.
9 Make sure they are physically ready.
Have medical and dental checkups and immunizations. They need to
have experience playing using their gross motor skills-running,
jumping, skipping, climbing, throwing balls. They need fine motor
skills as well, such as cutting, coloring, drawing and
10 Role play.
Erica Holman, preschool teacher with The Chicago Grammar School,
says it is helpful for a child to play classroom with stuffed
11 Acknowledge your emotions.
Parents have a lot of emotions around the transition and
sometimes the separation anxiety is harder on them than the child.
"It is important to acknowledge, 'You know, I am a little nervous,
too. I am going to miss you, too,' but it should be as positive as
possible," Holman says.
12 Help cognitive development.
Phillip Jackson, executive director of The Chicago Grammar
School, says that while screening kids for his school he noticed an
interesting phenomenon: almost all the 3- or 4-year-olds have
strong verbal processing skills, but the majority have weaker
processing abilities in visual motor work. Ask your children to
look at a pattern and replicate it, using either blocks or sticks,
or by drawing it.
Nonna Working is a Chicago mom, freelance writer and former member of the Chicago Parent staff.
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