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How to Prepare Your Child for Preschool

How to Prepare Your Child for Preschool

Entering preschool marks a major milestone for any child. High-quality early childhood education in the first five years of life is critically important for brain development, socialization, and setting the stage for school readiness and positive long-term outcomes.

Many children begin their early childhood education at the age of three in preschool – a time that is exciting for both parents and children. For parents, it may mean a bit of freedom and more time to focus on work or other responsibilities. For children, it's a chance to learn new things, gain independence, and make friends for years to come.

Preschool at French American School of Princeton (FASP) provides the perfect opportunity to join a multilingual and multicultural community offering a supportive and nurturing environment for your child. It is also an ideal time to learn a new language. Studies consistently show that when children learn two or more languages from a young age, the many benefits include improved cognitive skills such as problem-solving, critical thinking, reading comprehension, and creativity.

At FASP, we believe it's essential to help children and their families prepare for this new adventure together. Carine Hinant, Division Head of the French American School of Princeton’s Early Childhood Program, known as “Maternelle” in the French curriculum, offers practical tips to ensure a smooth transition and a positive experience for your child in their new social community.

Prepare your Child for a New Environment:

  • Talk to Your Child About Preschool: One of the first steps to getting your child ready for preschool is to talk to them about it in a positive way. Explain what preschool is, what they will be doing at school, what a typical day might look like, and why they’ll be going. Use positive language and be enthusiastic. Talk about all the fun things they’ll be doing at preschool, like learning to write and speak French, creating art, playing with new toys, singing songs, and making new friends. Make sure to answer any questions your child may have and address any concerns they may be feeling. This will help your child feel more comfortable and confident about starting preschool.

  • Visit FASP Beforehand, and as Many Times as it Takes to Feel Confident! It’s a good idea to visit the classroom with your child before their first day. This will give them a chance to see the environment and get familiar with their teacher and the surroundings. Show them the play area, the classroom, and the bathroom. Introduce them to the teacher and any other children who are there. 

Over the summer:

  • Read Books about Preschool: Reading books about preschool can be a great way to prepare your child for this new experience. There are many children’s books that are specifically about starting school. These books can help your child understand what to expect and feel more comfortable with the idea of going to preschool.

  • Explain the Bilingual Environment at FASP: Starting preschool in a bilingual environment is an exciting and unique experience for many children. Take the time to explain why their school is so special and different from other schools, and why your family has made that choice. Share stories, pictures, or experiences that highlight the benefits of learning in multiple languages. Help your child develop a sense of pride and ownership in their school.

  • Introduce Bilingual Lullabies and Nursery Rhymes: Introduce your child to the richness of bilingualism by listening to bilingual lullabies and nursery rhymes together. Explore songs and rhymes in different languages, immersing your child in the beauty of diverse cultures. This not only enhances their language skills but also embraces cultural appreciation by celebrating the uniqueness of their bilingual preschool environment.

  • Encourage Independence and Self-care: Preschool is a time when children start to develop independence. Remember that encouraging your child to do things on their own will give them a sense of accomplishment and confidence in their abilities. Here are five easy self-help skills to practice that will help your child be successful in preschool:

    • washing and drying hands without help.
    • using the potty, pulling down pants.
    • getting dressed on their own, pulling up pants.
    • putting shoes and socks on.
    • sitting through mealtime at a table with no interruption & using utensils. 

Prepare for the First Day:

  • Establish a Visual Calendar: The first day of preschool is an important milestone for your child, and preparing them for this exciting experience requires careful planning and support. As young children have a different understanding of the concept of time, it is essential to create a tangible sense of anticipation and readiness. Creating a visual calendar a couple of days to a week before school starts can help them understand and count down the days until their first day of preschool. Use a large wall calendar or a homemade chart where you can mark off the passing days together.

  • Prepare their Backpack Together: Involve your child in preparing their backpack for preschool. Choose a backpack together and let them personalize it with accessories, stickers, or their name. Include essential items like a change of clothes, a water bottle, a snack container, and even a comfort item like a favorite stuffed animal or blanket, if needed. Leave it in sight a few days prior to the first day of school to emphasize that the big day is coming up soon. 

  • Label Items: Involving your child in labeling their belongings is not only fun for them, it is also a helpful way to ensure they don't get lost or mixed up with other children's belongings at preschool. This can include labeling backpacks, lunch boxes, water bottles, coats, boots, and other clothing. Make sure to use labels that are easy to read and durable. FASP small class sizes ensure that teachers get to know each student well. FASP preschool students learn to use cubbies for their personal items and students take great pride in using their cubbies to demonstrate their newfound independence. 

  • Build Social Skills: Preschool is a great opportunity for children to build social skills and make new friends. To help your child prepare for this, provide opportunities for socialization. This can include playdates, joining a parent and toddler group, or even enrolling your child in a structured activity like music or art class. These activities will help your child learn how to interact with other children, share, and take turns. 

  • Practice Separation: One of the biggest challenges for both parents and children when starting preschool is separation. To make this process easier, start practicing separation before your child starts preschool. This can include leaving your child with a babysitter, a family member, or even a friend for short periods of time. This will help your child learn that you’ll always come back for them, become more comfortable with being away from you, and prepare them for the separation that will come with starting preschool. FASP preschool teachers have helped countless parents and children establish a tear-free routine for drop-off. Teachers warmly welcome and quickly engage with each child so they can focus on school. FASP teachers also use a photo-sharing app that enables parents to see their child in action enjoying the day’s activities and to monitor their learning. 

Once School has Started:

  • Talk to the Teacher: Communicating with the teacher is important in helping your child adjust to preschool. Talk to the teacher about any concerns or questions you may have. Share information about your child, including their likes and dislikes, and any other useful information to ease their day. 

  • Establish a Routine: FASP finds that children thrive with an established routine. Starting a routine and sticking with it can help your child feel more comfortable, safe, and secure. As the start of preschool approaches, gradually introduce a routine that mirrors the preschool schedule. Start by setting a regular bedtime and wake-up time. A morning routine can include getting dressed, brushing teeth, and having a healthy breakfast. Plan out a daily schedule that includes mealtimes, playtime, and quiet time. This will help your child adjust to the preschool schedule and prepare them for the preschool routine. Many FASP preschool students continue to nap, or quietly rest, at age three, so this is built into our daily schedule.

  • Encourage Independence: Allow your child to make simple decisions, like choosing their outfit for the day the night before or deciding between two snack options for their lunchbox.

  • Share in their Love of Learning: Imagine the excitement in your child's eyes as they embark on a daily quest to seek knowledge and share their discoveries with you. Encourage them to share their thoughts, experiences, and any challenges they may face.

  • Reinforce Basic Skills: Preschool is a great time for children to learn basic skills like sharing, taking turns, and following directions. You can help your child develop these skills by practicing them at home. Play games that require turn-taking, like board games or card games. Encourage your child to share their toys with others. Practice following directions by giving your child simple tasks to do, like picking up their toys or putting their shoes away.

Sending your child to preschool is a major milestone for both you and your child. We hope these tips help set the stage for success at FASP!

The French American School of Princeton offers a robust early childhood education program for children ages 30 months through Kindergarten. Known as Maternelle in the French curriculum, Preschool, Pre-K, and Kindergarten classes focus on activities such as reading, writing, math, and science, but also place a strong emphasis on artistic and creative activities, physical education, and social skills. The French Maternelle curriculum is considered one of the most comprehensive and innovative early childhood education programs in the world, with a strong focus on providing children with a solid foundation for future academic and personal success.


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