Mona Singh, Vice President, Sesame Schoolhouse
Let’s recall our childhood days when our parents used to leave us at the school and we would cry at the sight of them going! Naturally, there was a concoction of feelings that we underwent- anxiety, excitement, fear, hope. The same feelings are felt by our kids as they step into a new environment of a school. Some groundwork for attending school can begin in advance at home so that the kid is well prepared to take on the new phase of life with zeal.
Teach kids to be independent and social
As kids move out of the home environment parents or nanny would no longer be available to help them at every step. Hence, it is significant that the child is trained to stay independent. This can be done by giving him/her opportunity to do simple tasks like moving objects from one place to another, placing toys in the basket, brushing, eating by self. Parents should expose children to other members of the society by setting routines like social outings, evening park visits etc. which can help the child develop social skills. Encourage the child to interact with peers and seniors and help them build simple small conversations.
Parents can create an opportunity for children to be responsible by giving them tasks, or objects like plants or pets to take care of. As they become the caregiver to that plant/pet, they also learn what responsibility means.
Developing critical thinking
Instead of presenting a solution to every single problem that your child faces, let him/her look for solutions to a problem. You may begin with simple activities at home like puzzle solving. Many next-gen preschools in India including Sesame Street Preschool emphasize on developing critical thinking among children. All educators these days are encouraged to teach children about finding solutions to their problems. While the educators may help, the pride of finding a solution by themselves excites the child and encourages them to think critically.
Training children at home
It is must to educate your children about good and bad touch. By 2 years children can understand their body and can differentiate a good touch versus a bad touch. Parents can begin with teaching kids to say “No” or “Stop”. They must ask permission before touching or embracing anyone and, similarly others should also ask their permission. Never force a child to hug or kiss, instead offer alternatives like high five, blow a kiss.
While there is no set age to begin toilet training, children are usually ready between 18 to 36 months. Before starting school parents should make sure that the child knows how and when to go to the toilet and to wash hands after using toilet.
Set the expectations of the child
Every child is anxious about starting school. Parents should talk to children about what to expect when they get to school — where they’ll be going, what they’ll be doing, and who will be in class with them. Before school begins, visit the classroom together at least once, preferably when other children and teacher(s) are there. Take your child out for shopping for school items like bag, water bottle, lunch-box and uniform. This will generate excitement to join the school.
Develop interest in books
It’s always good to develop interest of your kids in books right in the early years when the child’s mind is open to imagining a world full of possibilities. So however busy you may be, take out time to narrate age-appropriate stories to your child. Establish a reading routine, a reading time. This will help your child develop language skills, vocabulary, and concepts about print recognition. Love for books can generate basic reading skills among kids which helps them to adapt faster to the school environment.
Start practicing the routine in advance
Start preparing your child for the school regime in advance. Begin with going to bed earlier. One or two weeks before school begins, start rolling bedtime back to a school schedule. Start practicing a similar routine of bathing, dressing up, having breakfast, etc. that you are likely to follow when school starts. In this way, your little one will be accustomed with the routine and it would not be a sudden change for her/him.
For many children and even parents the biggest challenge is to say goodbye. Plan out small separations, develop a parting routine by role playing a separation in advance at home. Whether it should be a quick goodbye or few minutes of cuddle time, is a decision that parents should take after assessing the comfort of their child.
It is customary for children to experience separation anxiety during the initial weeks at the school. Be prepared for a few tears. With time your child will get accustomed to the routine and will soon start looking forward to spending quality time at the school.