The humidity levels are over 20 percent and the monsoons we have come to love are starting to roll through our evening skies—it must be back to school time in the Valley of the Sun!
Traditionally, parents welcome this time of the year with enthusiasm and fond memories of our own freshly sharpened pencils, brand new shoes and a shiny new lunchbox. These days, the seasoned elementary school kids are likely showing mixed feelings of being both excited to see old friends and bittersweet relief of their summertime boredom. Did we mention waking up before noon? This is not a favorite of most kids that have been bitten by the “summer time bug.”
For the little ones making their first trek to a big school campus for kindergarten, though, starting school can be downright scary.
There are so many different ways that we, as parents, can prepare our preschoolers for the transition from their cozy preschool classroom to a big, new elementary school classroom. Young children react best to change when they have been fully prepared for exactly what to expect. Here are some suggestions that you can try at home:
• Drive by (or walk to) your child’s new school as often as possible. Make sure and talk to your preschooler about the drive (pointing out landmarks along the way) and their new campus.
• Stop and walk through the campus and play on the playground if it is open. Take advantage of this time to talk with your child about what they can expect from their typical school day. Don’t forget to mention that there will be plenty of time for lunch and outdoor play in addition to class work.
• Make a calendar system to count down the days until school starts. (Do you remember the paper chains we would make in anticipation of a birthday or holiday?) Each night, remove one link from the chain and talk with your child about how their days will change from the way they are now.
• In the weeks leading up to the first day of school, begin to adjust your child’s sleeping, waking and eating schedule to make sure they are not unprepared for a later lunch or waking earlier in the morning. Also, if your preschooler still takes naps, this is a good time to slowly eliminate those from their typical daily schedule.
• Involve your child as much as possible in the different preparations for school, such as shopping for new clothes or school supplies. These activities are exciting and fun and provide the perfect opportunity to discuss making new friends and learning all new things at school this year.
• Make arrangements to attend your child’s “Meet the Teacher” night. This is a perfect occasion to help your child become comfortable in their new surroundings. Take a walk around the room and note the different activities that they will be doing. Also, if a class list is available you may be able to find a few neighborhood children or preschool friends who are in the same class. Knowing all of these things in advance will help make your child’s first day at school that much more exciting!
• Together, help your child pick and lay out their clothes and pack their backpack the night before their first day of school.
Most importantly, be kind to yourself after you drop off your child. Sometimes the first day of school is more emotional for us parents than it is for our little one. And don’t forget to take lots of pictures to share with friends and family!
Dana Vela is president of Valley-based Sunrise Preschools, which has several locations throughout the East Valley.