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How to Prepare Your Child for Preschool

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    Starting preschool marks the beginning of a new phase in your child's development, and many parents ask themselves, "Is my child ready for preschool?" Even if your child has previously attended a toddler program, your preschooler will make new friends, learn new skills, and gain confidence and independence in the next few months.

    This early start sets your child on the path for later school success, but it's not always easy. You and your toddler may be feeling a mix of emotions: excitement, apprehension, and even sadness as babyhood disappears.

    Preparing your child academically for preschool may be different from what you are expecting. By simply reading, playing, and exploring together, you are helping your child get ready for preschool activities.

    There are plenty of fun family activities like going for nature walks, working on puzzles and board games, or visiting the library that will help get your toddler ready for preschool.

    You should offer your child a mix of active, playful experiences and quieter, more focused activities. Colour, work with play dough, or string beads together to build fine motor skills. Chances are, you're probably already doing many things to prepare your child for the preschool curriculum.

    Emotionally preparing your child and yourself for preschool might take more intentional effort. Below are a few ideas to smoothly make the transition.

    • Visit the preschool. Visit your child's classroom and meet the preschool teacher a few days ahead of time. Show your child the class schedule if one is posted. Talk about what to expect during each portion of the day. Show your child where she'll keep her backpack and personal things.
    • Read books. Spend time reading books about preschool, such as "Maisy Goes to Preschool" by Lucy Cousins, "Llama Llama Misses Mama" by Anna Dewdney, "Little School" by Beth Norling or "The Kissing Hand" by Audrey Penn.
    • Act it out. Use your child's penchant for pretend play to prepare him for preschool. Pretend that you're going to school, hanging up your backpack, and sitting down for group time. Play games, read stories and make a simple snack. Teach your child a few basic social skills. Talk about how to get someone's attention, take turns, or join in the play. Use puppets to role-play.
    • Work on self-help skills. Going to preschool marks a big developmental leap for your child, and independence will become a larger focus. Help your toddler master self-help skills like washing her hands, using the toilet, putting shoes and socks on, and using utensils at the table.
    • Express and acknowledge feelings. Beginning preschool is an exciting adventure, but it's normal for both of you to have feelings of anxiety. To help your child deal with the change anxiety, allow your child to express those feelings. Listen closely and acknowledge your child's fears. At the same time, acknowledge to yourself your feelings of ambivalence. You might also notice changes in your child's behaviour as he works through his feelings. Children often regress in one area as they make developmental growth in another. Children sometimes regress in toilet training or become less independent. With nurturing support, these behaviour changes are only temporary.
    • Shift your schedule. As your child experiences her first few weeks of preschool, gradually make any necessary changes in your routines. Work to create a calm, peaceful environment at home. Limit media. Enjoy family meals together and make sure your child goes to bed at a reasonable hour. Offer a healthy breakfast and spend time outdoors. Developing consistent, predictable routines a few weeks before school starts will make the transition much smoother.

    8 Tips for Choosing Child Care

    Whether you choose a formal childcare centre, family daycare, or in-home care, there are some basic things you should know and insist upon. To help you make this all-important decision, we've talked to mothers and other experts who have been in the childcare trenches. Here are eight ways to size up a childcare option.

    Look down

    When you're visiting a potential site, pay attention to how the staff interacts with the children. Ideally, a caregiver should be on the floor playing with the kids or holding one on her lap. However, babies need close, loving, interactive relationships with adults in their early years to thrive.

    That's why it's especially important that babies' first caregivers be warm and responsive and that even in group care, infants and older babies get a healthy dose of one-on-one time. 

    Ask for a commitment

    Babies need consistent, predictable care. It helps them to form a secure attachment to their caregivers, according to Debra K. Shutoff, a family therapist in private practice in St. Louis. If you're looking at an in-home caregiver, request that the person you're considering make a one-year commitment to the job.

    If you're considering a centre, find out how long the current caregivers have been working there and how much turnover the centre usually experiences.

    Do a policy check

    Find out whether you share parenting philosophies on topics such as discipline (Do the caregivers use time-outs, scoldings?); television (Is the TV on all day or used sparingly, if at all?); feeding (What snacks or drinks are provided for older babies?); sleeping (When are naps offered? How are fussy babies put to sleep?); and so forth. Inquire about the sick-child policy (What symptoms prevent a child from attending?).

    Also, ask whether there's a backup plan should the family day-care provider or in-home caregiver get sick and be unable to work. The more questions you ask early on, the less likely you are to be unpleasantly surprised later.

    Drop by and spy

    While word-of-mouth referrals from other parents or trusted resources are important, you need to look at a place for yourself to assess whether it meets your needs. Of course, any childcare environment should be kept clean, childproofed, and well stocked with sturdy books and age-appropriate toys. Other details to consider: When older children share the space, toys with small parts (choking hazards) should be kept away from younger babies.

    Ideally, infants and babies should have their area where older toddlers won't get "loved" too much. A room or separate area dedicated solely to swings and bouncers may look appealing at first glance, but keep in mind that growing babies need plenty of floor time to develop and strengthen their muscles.

    If possible, try to visit the same centres at different times to get a sense of how the staff interacts with the children and what the routine is. In addition, you may want to consider popping in unannounced a few times after you've enrolled your child, just to see how things are going. Sometimes your visits will confirm that the place is right for you, but sometimes they'll be a real eye-opener.

    Keep talking

    Until your baby can talk, you will be relying on what the caregiver tells you about your child's day.

    Make sure you can communicate comfortably with each other. For example, when you first hand off your child in the morning, you should tell the caregiver how your little one slept the night before, if he is teething, and whether he ate breakfast. You'll want to know similar information, such as the number of diapers he went through when he napped and if he seemed happy overall.

    It's always preferable to speak to the caregiver in person. If that's not possible, ask if there's a convenient time to phone, perhaps at nap time.

    Problem-solve pronto

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    You'll inevitably experience conflicts with your caregiver, both large and small. Address problems right away rather than ignoring them until they grow out of proportion. Some issues can be resolved quickly; others may require more discussion. Whatever the conflict, respectfully treat the caregiver, but don't be afraid to speak up, says Deborah Borchers, MD, a pediatrician in private practice in Cincinnati.

    When broaching a difficult subject, ask the caregiver's opinion, and hear her out. As the parent, you have the final word with an in-home caregiver, but you're more likely to elicit cooperation if the caregiver knows she has been heard. For example, instead of demanding an earlier nap time to make bedtime easier, ask the caregiver if she has ideas about how to adjust your baby's schedule so he won't grow so overtired in the evening.

    Trust your gut

    Every parent knows when something doesn't feel quite right. You may be turned off by a centre everyone in town raves about or clash with a highly recommended sitter. If that happens, keep searching. Babies deserve and thrive under good, nurturing care. On the other hand, investigate other options if something just doesn't feel right about your situation.

    Be open to change

    You're not married to a particular person or situation, and if things don't work out, you can always make a switch. So yes, you want consistency for your baby, but that doesn't mean you can't alter arrangements. Babies are resilient; as long as they're having a positive experience with their new caregiver, they'll be just fine, points out Dr Shatoff.

    No matter what your work hours, you are still your child's essential caregiver—the most consistent source of love and support in her life. Under your care and guidance, along with the help of your well-chosen caregivers, your baby will flourish and grow into a happy, healthy child.

    Benefits of Sending Your Kids to a Child Care

    While conventional wisdom suggests that every child should be with his or her parents at home, the research shows that children benefit significantly from quality child care.

    Study after study has shown that when you compare a child cared for exclusively by his or her parents to a child that has experienced child care and home-based care, child care is shown to have no negative impact on the child's cognitive or language development. There is even evidence that children perform better if they have attended child care from a young age.

    Mario Small argues that parents "using childcare reap social, psychological, and even financial rewards". So let's dig a little deeper and go through the top 5 benefits of sending your kids to a child care centre.

    Preparation for School

    The transition to school or kindergarten can be a difficult phase for both parents and children. That's why any preparation that can help to ease the transition should be taken advantage of.

    Sending your little one to a child care centre provides them with an invaluable opportunity to develop and experience many new things that can help prepare him or them for school.

    There is evidence that children who attend child care centres develop many of the important and useful skills essential for classroom learning at school. These skills can include a wide range of things, from being apart from their parents for a short time to problem-solving activities.

    In fact, by sending your child to a care centre, you could avoid many of the behavioural problems that define this period for many parents. Instead, your child could seamlessly adapt to his or her new learning environment with fewer issues.

    A Regular Schedule

    Young children benefit from having a strict and regular schedule during the day.

    Thanks to a full programme of activities at child care centres, your children will never be bored. From songs to stories, they'll be able to enjoy their days and full schedules.

    The children also enjoy structured periods of playing, learning, napping and eating. Playing is an important part of development and growth for many young children as they learn to explore the world around them.

    Better yet, at the end of the day, when parents come to pick up their little loved ones, the children have used up most of their energy. This means they are likely to behave well at home and sleep well at night too!

    Cognitive and Language Development

    Research by the U.S. National Institutes of Health suggests that children who attend care centres are more likely to have higher cognitive and better academic results than those that didn't.

    Thus, while the decision to send your child to a child care centre may seem like a difficult one at the moment, it may pay off in the future in terms of your child's development.

    According to the research, this is especially the case for children who attended so-called "high-quality" care centres. The best care centres include extensive interaction between the care providers and the children.

    The professional staff is trained to identify when they should challenge a child to reach the next stage and comfort them. The combination of loving parents and professional staff works wonders for child development.

    There are also practical elements to improving the development of your child. For instance, many care centres teach children topics such as the alphabet and colours.

    This is often taught in a fun way through practical play. However, this can often be a really difficult task for parents at home to accomplish.

    Social Interaction

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    Children who stay at home often only experience one-on-one interaction with adults, mostly just their parents. Because of this, they may find group interaction much more difficult at a later stage.

    In comparison, children in care centres learn to interact and make friends in groups early on. Not only do they learn how to make friends, but they also learn how to make themselves heard in a group.

    Children especially benefit from spending time with other children of the same or similar age group. Many parents know this from playdates. However, child care centres offer this regularly.

    It's also important for children to get the opportunity to interact with each other in a safe and supervised environment. It's also important for children to learn to solve problems and share stories at a young age while their personalities are still developing.

    However, it can also be valuable for children to experience social interaction with adults and other children.

    Children benefit from social interaction with other adults other than their parents and other members of the family. Child care providers act as role models and mentors.

    Better Health and Less Colds Later

    It's common knowledge that when children first attend kindergarten and school, they come home with colds.

    However, children sent to care centres by their parents are less likely to be sick when they start school. This is because they have already interacted with other people and are less vulnerable to viruses.

    Children also get the chance to play and exercise at care centres, which results in a healthier lifestyle.

    Language, Art, and Math
    • Recognizes some shapes and colors.
    • Recites the alphabet and recognize some letters.
    • Expresses thoughts and needs verbally.
    • Recites his full name.
    • Counts to five.
    • Draws with crayons or pencils.

    Point out letters in signs, and go through the alphabet together. Use blocks, big puzzles and other toys to teach letters and numbers. Sing alphabet and counting songs together. Use books to talk about difficult topics, like anger or sharing.

    Your child should be able to be away from you and be able to share, take turns, play with others, have good manners and join in with pretend play. A good way to learn these skills is by setting up plenty of play dates before your child enters preschool.

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