Settling your toddler into preschool

Adjusting to new people, places and routines can be stressful, even for adults. But add that stress to all the trials and tribulations of being a toddler and sometimes you have the perfect storm. Toddlers are already dealing with having more feelings and emotions than they are able to coherently express, and they are only just finding their feet in life – quite literally – when we go ahead and ‘abandon’ them in a strange place full of strange people. Any shred of separation anxiety they may have been exhibiting already will go into overdrive, and these pent-up feelings of fear and abandonment surface as the tears and tantrums we have come to know and love.

But it doesn’t have to be like this. I’m not saying there is a magic recipe to completely avoid separation anxiety and upset, but there are certainly lots of tips and tricks for making the transition into childcare as seamless as possible. And for those children that are going to struggle to settle, those that are already clingy or shy, then there are also extra preparation tips before starting a preschool.

Is it really worth the hassle?

Yes. Attending an early learning centre is not only a big booster for your child’s cognitive and emotional development but also an invaluable opportunity for them to foster some all-important social skills. The fear of separation anxiety should not discourage you from enrolling your child into a good preschool. Actually quite the opposite – If your child is anxious about a session at preschool, just imagine how they will cope with a full school day when the time comes. A preschool is essential if you want your child to be fully prepared and emotionally ready for term time at big school.

So how can we help our toddlers to settle in?

  • Go for a visit. Any good childcare centre will allow you to visit several times with your child before officially enrolling. They want the children in their care to be as confident and happy as possible.
  • Talk to staff and educators. Again most centres actively encourage you to bring them up to speed on your child when you enrol. Likes and dislikes and any fears or anxieties.
  • Positive association. If you visit or pass a preschool playground be sure to point out how much fun all the children are having.
  • Read a bedtime story. There are lots of ‘starting nursery school’ stories out there, read it together and have fun with it.
  • Don’t shed a tear. Yes we too get separation anxiety, leaving your little baby for the first time is never easy, but don’t let them know that! If they think you are sad they will want to stay by your side all the more!
  • No long goodbyes or longing stares. You are confident about this – remember!
  • Make friends. As soon as you start to make friends and socialise with other mums and dad your child will feel like they are going to preschool with their good pals, and even look forward to it.
  • Don’t take away the bear! Allow your child to take a comforter to preschool, it will help them to have something familiar and it can be put to one side once your youngster starts to feel more confident.
  • Less isn’t always more. It is very tempting to assume that starting off with just a few hours once a week will help your child to adjust. But young children need more exposure in order to familiarise themselves with something. With a week between visits, they can easily forget the place.
  • Always ask for help. At Cherry Bridge Station, staff are not only experienced with all kinds of children, but they also know a thing or two when it comes to ensuring the happiness and wellbeing of the children in their care. Your centre supervisor will be happy to give advice and flag any concerns. They care about childcare.