It's an exciting time for you and your toddler, they are getting to be big kids and go to "school" for the first time. Yes, it's going to be lots of play and lots of games but there will also be the first foundations of formal learning that your little one will experience. So how can you prepare your toddler to be ready to start when the time comes. We'll we've got some top tips for you to help them on their way.
Helping your Toddler Prepare for Preschool
So what's really important, do you need to have them reciting all of their numbers to 10 or spotting letters of the alphabet before they start? NO! They are not necessary at all. If they are learning having fun with you at home playing games and activities where they have picked these up absolutely amazing. If they don't then there is no need to spend the coming weeks focusing on those things if you don't want to, if you do then right at the end we have some fun ideas you can do together though. Instead, make sure that they are good with these things that will help the transition and settling in process a lot more.
One of the best skills you can teach your toddler before preschool is how to be more independent. Things like opening their water bottle, doing up their coat, putting on shoes. It doesn't have to be borrowing, we made a fun game out of getting dressed that our toddlers love as much as the preschoolers.
Washing hands, sneezing into a tissue and basic hygiene are helpful too. We love to sing a hand washing song (no not happy birthday!) and yes you will be singing this all day long but it's a great way to make it happen easily and fun. Just watch the video below:
Not every child will be potty trained when they enter preschool but if you and your child are ready then it can really help. We started off by reading some books about using the toilet and potty and then followed our top tips for potty training to get our own kids ready.
Of course, by the time they start there probably will be accidents, and that is to be expected but if you can help your little one beforehand then they will find it a much easier start.
Sharing and Taking Turns
Oh boy, this is a big one and one that you know your child will either be fine or this is something that you may need to work on. Luckily, it can be a lot of fun to work on and we have some fantastic ideas to get you started.
How do you do it? Well, you play games! Games for taking turns are great and we have some ideas of ones that you can buy as well as some FREE printable turn-taking games that you can get, download, print, and play.
Talking and Listening
Talking and learning to listen are important skills. One child of mine was a great listener they would sit and wait till you finished without interupting at all, taking it all in. The other, was my "Why" child. At about 18 or 20 months the word entered their vocabulary and that was it. Everything was "Why!" and we were interrupted constantly.
Take time talking together, sit and talk over meals as a family so that they see you modelling talking and listening to others, watch programmes on "school" so they can see a teacher talking and children listening putting their hand up to talk and more.
Ready to be Without you
A hard one and expect at some point in the preschool and even school years that your child will likely return to being anxious about being being at school and preschool without you. You can help prepare them by letting them play alone with friends, staying with grandparents and neighbours whilst you get things done.
If they are anxious when they start remember it's normal - read our guide to preschool anxiety for some top tips from parents and carers on helping your little one overcome and thrive at preschool.
Whether you like it or not, preschool and school are routine orientated. For some children they thrive with this and it will benefit them no end knowing exactly what is going to happen in what order next. If your child isn't used to this then you can prepare them for this by putting in some routines at home.
When our kids were little we had rhythms rather than routines but it was a similar idea. Things followed in a pattern, certain days things happened. They know when we said lunch for example, they needed to go and wash their hands (sing their handwashing song), come and sit at the table and be ready to eat.
Schools and preschools follow patterns, so it's worth adding little routines with patterns into your days at home as well. Maybe, after lunch you have a story on the sofa before nap time or first thing in the morning you sing a song together as you sort out the washing.
We used a visual timetable to help prepare our toddler for preschool and then the transition from preschool to school - you can find more information about it all here.
Read some Books
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We mentioned above about the books with potty training, that is because books are a great way to help your child to understand new situations. There are lots of books about starting school and preschool but we've picked our favourites below. We used these with our own children and hope you enjoy them too. To make it easier we have linked them to Amazon and could earn from qualifying purchases.
- Maisy Goes to Preschool by Lucy Cousins - this was a favourite with our youngest and great for reading together.
- Llama Llama Misses Mama by Anna Dewdney
- Preschool Day Hooray! by Linda Leopold Strauss
- Daniel Goes to School (Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood) by Becky Friedman
What About the Academics
We know you don't want your child to be behind, but really there is no behind children all develop at different rates. They can be ahead in gross motor skills and not have got the hang of the alphabet yet. Don't worry we have some fun hands-on activities you can do this year to have fun and learn as well. Check them out below.
- Fun activities for names for toddlers and preschoolers
- Hands-on Maths Games for counting and number sense
- Recipes for sensory play for fine motor skills
Above all remember that the transition from a toddler at home with you to being a preschooler is a huge step for them, but it's exciting and you and they can have lots of fun this year preparing them to go. Enjoy your time together now, spend time talking, playing, and laughing around it's all helping them in their journey to the next stage.