Children who already have experience in a daycare setting may not bat an eye at transitioning to preschool, but those toddlers and young children who have been home or in the care of a familiar face since birth may find preparing for preschool to be a bit overwhelming. If Baby falls in the second category, it’s up to you to do some prep work in order to make sure she is comfortable and confident in her social skills by the time her enrollment date rolls around.
A common concern is whether a tot has enough social experience to interact with her peers, especially if she is an only child. The good news is that opportunities for socialization are all around most toddlers every day. Here are some strategies for socializing Baby as she gears up for preschool.
- Playdates: Getting out of the house and interacting with children her own age is a great way for Baby to start practicing those social skills, and it’s good for you, too! Playdates present the opportunity for you to interact with other adults while giving Baby a chance to get familiar with all those important toddler concepts like sharing and taking turns.
- Community activities: Taking advantage of events or classes in your area, like those offered at the local library, or even a toddler music class, can be a great, low-commitment way to start to get Baby used to being on someone else’s schedule. These activities will also help her get comfortable being in a group setting with other children her own age, and teaching her about accepting structure and rules from another adult.
- Run some errands: It’s tempting to wait until you have childcare before hitting the grocery store, or to switch off with your partner so one of you can shop while the other one hangs with Baby, but bringing her along for these activities will allow her to see how you interact with people around you. Each new setting comes with its own set of rules, like having to wait or be still, and learning to act appropriately in these social settings will benefit her when it comes time for preschool.
- Start separating more often: The toughest part of preschool for toddlers (and parents) is often that initial separation. It’s understandable that parting ways brings on a number of emotions on both sides, but the more used to separating from you Baby becomes, the more likely you’ll both be to keep it together on the first day. Start slowly, by placing her in the childcare area at the gym while you exercise, for example. Once she realizes how fun it is to play with other children and new toys, she’ll eventually begin to look forward to the opportunity, which is just how you want her to feel about going to school!
If you notice that most of the items on this list are things your family already does, congratulations, Baby may be more ready for preschool than you thought!