Transition Strategies For Preschool – To Make It Less Scary

Transition Strategies For Preschool - To Make It Less Scary

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Preschool can mean different things for families. If a child has been in daycare since the early months of life, preschool is just an extension of daycare. If like us, your little one was home for the first 2-3 years, transitioning to preschool can feel very scary at first. There are many things you can do to help your child prepare by using a number of transition strategies for preschool.

Our toddler Luca started part-time preschool when he was 2.5 years old. As a mom who worked from home, I was eager to have more time to focus on my business again. Luca has always been very extroverted and high energy, so preschool felt like the natural next step for him.

I totally underestimated his reaction when we started. Somehow I just assumed that because he was fearless approaching other children at the playground, that preschool would be a piece of cake.

It wasn’t.

I had failed to include a very important element to his social courage, and that was me. Knowing I was there too, allowed him to co-regulate with me at a distance, making time at preschool feel very different from the playgrounds he was a master of.

Luca took the summer off and in the fall started at the same preschool but full-time. This time I was prepared. I knew from experience the transition to school would be hard, so I took the below steps to make transitioning back to preschool easier.

Get insider knowledge on why your toddler’s behavior is so irrational sometimes– and step by step ideas on making parenting easier.

This Value Packed Bundle Includes:

  • 5 Steps To Being A More Gentle Parent
  • 10 Mindset Shifts To Reconnect With Your Toddler
  • Parent’s Guide To Defusing Meltdowns
  • 5 Parenting Books That Changed My Life

plus receive a FREE audio book with an audile trial link enclosed

ps. you might still cry in the bathroom sometimes, but after using this resource it will be easier to bounce back on your feet!

ALL FOR FREE — download below!

    How Can I Make My Preschool Transition Easier?

    First of all you need to separate your emotions from that of your child. There are two parts to this,

    1. Making the transition easier for your child. This is a process that takes time and involves preparing them for what to expect, and then supporting them in the discomfort that comes with change. (continue reading for concrete tips for this)

    2. Making the transition easier for YOU. Here is where we need to put aside our own fears about the transition and be the CALM in the storm for your child. They will already be nervous about the change and are looking at you to gauge if it will be safe or not. Your job is to make space for their big feelings, BUT reassure that everything will be OK. (THIS IS REALLY IMPORTANT!)

    ->Had a tough drop off today? Use these 7 free tips to feel better<–

    Visual Schedule

    The next step is to make the experience as transparent as possible by laying out all the steps ahead of time. Visual schedules are a great tool here and I highly recommend them! You can make visual schedule of what the day might look like at school. Knowing what to expect is very comforting even for adults!

    ex. arrive, breakfast, circle time, indoor free play, snack, outdoor play, lunch, nap, snack, circle time, indoor free play, go home.

    At this age its best to use actual pictures instead of clip art, as it can be less obvious for 2-3 year old’s to make the association personal. But if that is not possible, something is better than nothing!

    Normalize Going To Preschool

    Starting something new is always hard. This might be the first time your toddler is in a social setting without parents. Help them through the difficult feelings by normalizing the experience. Talk to them about how their friends are starting preschool too, or maybe share a memory you have from preschool times.

    It is important here to normalize both the experience and the feeling. It is normal to feel scared, worried, anxious, happy, excited all at the same time. Some mornings maybe they’ll be happy to go, others they might cry for you at drop off. IT’S ALL NORMAL.

    There are a ton of great shows to watch together (or them on their own), that discuss the experience of going to preschool and how it can feel scary at first. Check the videos linked below. I also recommend these 3 books: (if you only pick one, buy When I Feel Scared)

    Here are a few videos I highly recommend:

    Chip & Potato: Nico’s First Day

    Sesame Street: Murray’s First Day of Preschool

    First Day of School | CoComelon Nursery Rhymes & Kids Songs

    Starting School with Akili | Emotional Skills for Preschoolers

    What Do You Do When Your Child Cries At Preschool?

    So this is the hardest part. I am not going to lie! This morning I dropped Luca off and he was just not feeling it. It’s only been his first week back after the summer, so he is adjusting. He cried at drop off. I kept it together and as soon as I left I cried on my way home.

    Lets normalize that.

    Just because they are crying and then you are crying, does not mean that starting preschool was a bad idea. At the same time, there is a lot we can do to help our toddlers feel less alone with those big feelings which in return can make the experience feel less scary.

    Make Drop Off As Fast As Possible

    The emotion is most raw during and just before drop off. Once you leave, they can start thinking about what to do next. You will most likely not be able to calm your little one down in that moment. It will be super hard, but you need to leave your toddler crying and trust that the teacher will soothe them for you. Trust in them.

    Its also very powerful for your toddler to realize that others can help soothe them too and that they will be ok without you sometimes. Crying is ok, as long as they are not left alone to cry. A teacher needs to be with them.

    Stay Calm

    Don’t panic when your child starts to panic, you need to be their calm in the storm. Show them that although it feels scary at the moment, that it is safe to go to preschool. It will be hard, you might have thoughts of maybe keeping him home. 

    Remember this: they need small amounts of discomfort in order to grow. Doing hard things will help their self-esteem, supporting them through the experience will secure their attachment to you.

    ->Learn How Gentle Parenting Can Improve Parent-Child Relationships<–

    Have A Goodbye Routine

    So this is something my preschool suggested (and I love it). Create a special goodbye routine that you do every time at drop off. Example could be, 2 kisses and a hug; a big high five with a “see ya later!”; or a hug with a “I love you”.

    Whatever you do – Do NOT sneak away when they are not looking. This will make them even more nervous about going  to school.

    Having a goodbye routine will make them feel safe that you will be back and everything is OK. Our current goodbye routine is a hug and high-five. Also, when I pick him up we go to the ice cream store and he gets his favorite lemon sorbet. It gives him something to look forward  to and is an opportunity for connection around preschool.

    How Long Does It Take For A Kid To Adjust To Preschool?

    Personalities factors into how long it takes to adjust to preschool. I don’t know of anyone whose kid did not cry or be upset about going to school when starting off. I’d say on average it takes around 2 weeks to fully adjust, maybe a month for those who are very shy.

    I will say though it’s so super important to pick a preschool you fully trust. It can be stressful if you start to worry that their upsetness and fears are based on being mistreated at school, rather than the normal discomfort of transitioning. (Its good still keep an eye out – though-)

    We picked a school that has a long track record in our neighborhood. I also looked carefully at their mission, their teachers and what type of teaching methodologies they believed in. Emotional Intelligence is my main concern for our toddler, so picking a place that I felt understood the importance and embraced it within their curriculum was my number one focus.

    10 Strategies To Help Your Toddler Adjust To Preschool

    Lets look at some quick and easy strategies to implement as you support your toddler’s transition to preschool.

    1. Talk about preschool starting preschool in advance to prepare them.
    2. Make a social story with pictures about what a day at preschool looks like.
    3. Give them a lovey or laminated picture to take with them.
    4. Reiterate that it’s normal to feel scared but that preschool is SAFE.
    5. Stay calm, they will feel safe knowing you are not worried.
    6. Watch TV shows about starting school.
    7. Read books about how to deal with fear and missing parents.
    8. Create a goodbye ritual at drop off.
    9. Give them space to have BIG emotions
    10. Trust that although it might feel hard, going to preschool can be an amazing experience for kids!

    It’s Not Always Easy, But So Worth It!

    Preschool might be a piece of cake for those seasoned daycare kids, but if you are like us, starting school for the first time as a toddler is a big transition from home life with mom and dad. They will feel scared at first and that is normal, there will be crying (from toddlers and parents).

    There are concrete transition strategies for preschool that you can adopt to make the process smoother. Use the above steps to prepare and get your toddler excited about preschool, then support them through the transition.

    It is not always easy being away from our kids, but it’s so worth it when you pick them up and they are so excited to tell you about everything they did. That big smile on their face will melt your heart! Using these transition strategies for preschool helped me and I hope they help you too!

    Get insider knowledge on why your toddler’s behavior is so irrational sometimes– and step by step ideas on making parenting easier.

    This Value Packed Bundle Includes:

    • 5 Steps To Being A More Gentle Parent
    • 10 Mindset Shifts To Reconnect With Your Toddler
    • Parent’s Guide To Defusing Meltdowns
    • 5 Parenting Books That Changed My Life

    plus receive a FREE audio book with an audile trial link enclosed

    ps. you might still cry in the bathroom sometimes, but after using this resource it will be easier to bounce back on your feet!

    ALL FOR FREE — download below!

      Share with a Friend!