Carousel’s Top 10 Tips for First-Day-of-School Readiness
Summer days are melting away…
We’re so excited to welcome your young global citizens back to our beautiful Carousel home for the 2021-22 academic year!
At Carousel, we understand the importance of beginning foreign language study as early as possible. Our focus has always been the most fertile language-learning window: 0-3 years of age.
This means that for most of our students, Carousel is their first formal educational experience. We specialize in babies, toddlers, and preschoolers!
A warm, nurturing, playful, family-like learning environment is central to what we do in our early childhood foreign language program, not only because positive interactions are vital to language development, but also to ensure that your child’s first impressions and experiences of taking a class and interacting with a teacher are full of love, joy, beauty, encouragement, exploration, curiosity, and delight.
Whether you’re coming to Carousel for the first time, beginning separation classes, or your child is now ready for preschool or kindergarten, a happy start to their schooling begins at home.
Here are 10 of our favorite tips from the experts for preparing your young child to go to school for the first time—or to smooth their return after a lengthy break!
Talk it up!
Talk with your child about starting school. Be enthusiastic and specific—talk about how much fun it will be to meet the kind teacher and make new friends, to play with different toys, do art projects, play games, read books, do puzzles. Tell her how exciting it is to be a big kid and learn all sorts of new things.
Normalize All the Feelings
Listen to your child when he expresses worries about school. Be patient with his questions and concerns. It’s normal to have lots of different kinds of feelings about it. He may be excited, curious, and happy sometimes; scared, sad, withdrawn or clingy at other times. Let him know that he’s not alone—most of the other children about to start school are having all those same feelings!
It may be difficult for your very young child to express exactly how he’s feeling. Don’t be afraid to help him put it into words. It seems like you’re a little worried about being away from me. I understand.
Reassure him, and again, be specific. Instead of just saying “don’t worry,” help him develop strategies for feeling better. You could pack a picture of your family in his backpack, or a “lovey” toy; explain that his teacher has helped lots of children feel happy and comfortable at school, and he or she will help him too.
Take a field trip…TO school!
Familiar surroundings can be very helpful during this big transition. Visit your child’s school ahead of time if possible. Take a walk around and admire all the interesting things that are there. Meet the teacher if you can. This one simple step can remove several big unknowns on the big day.
Play School at Home
For the young child, play is never just play.
Swiss psychologist, Jean Piaget, who made the first formal study of cognitive development in children, famously said, “Play is the work of the young child.”
When children play pretend they rehearse for real life. As they imagine and interact they practice verbal skills, vocabulary, and a variety of practical life skills, they problem-solve, resolve conflicts, and so forth.
The imaginative, child-directed scenarios that they act out are important for social-emotional development, as well—the growth of positive relationships, learning to express needs and feelings, and more. Your child may find it easier to express difficult feelings in dramatic play or with puppets.
Encourage your child to play school! Perhaps set up a classroom of dolls and stuffed animals, and take turns being the teacher. Act out some things they might do, like sing the alphabet song, look at the calendar, eat lunch, practice writing their names.
Also let your child lead with their own imagination of what it will be like. Chances are they’ve seen school on television, or read books about it, or watched an older sibling go, and already have their own ideas of what it’s all about.
Read, Read, Read
There are many great books about starting school! Stories help us in so many ways. Read (and reread) to learn about school, create familiarity, normalize feelings, have a good laugh, and more.
- The Pigeon has to Go to School, by Mo Willems is hilarious and touches on all the common childhood worries about starting school.
- Carousel kids love the Pete the Cat series! Look for Pete the Cat: Rocking in my School Shoes
- For young children who may be having trouble separating from a parent for the first time, we love The Kissing Handby Audrey Penn. Learn how Chester Raccoon’s mommy makes him feel happy, safe, and loved when he goes off to school. Available in Mandarin.
- It’s Back to School We Go, by Ellen Jackson, is a beautifully illustrated multicultural book that tells stories about the first day of school from the perspective of kids in 11 different countries.
Gather Your Gear
Involve your child in getting things ready that she will need for school. Let her pick out a backpack and lunch box, and decide what will go in them (a favorite food can be a comfort on the first day). Show her how you label everything with her name. Let her pick out her clothes.
Yes I can!
Knowing how to do some basic personal tasks will help your child build confidence and independence. Practice putting on shoes, buttoning up coat, opening lunch box, unzipping backpack, using the restroom, washing hands.
Good Morning Routine
Young children thrive on routine. Knowing what’s coming next makes them feel safe and happy. Structure builds confidence and independence, and encourages children to take important steps in the development of executive function—organization, memory, and self-regulation.
Plan your morning carefully so it will be relaxed, not nerve-wracking. Get up early enough to leave time for some cuddles or play or to read a book; to have a delicious, nutritious breakfast, pack the backpack, and get to school without rushing.
Get a Head Start
Long summer days often mean later bedtimes. Shift schedules a week or two ahead of time to make sure that your child is well-rested and has adjusted to the timing of wake-up, departure, etc. Practice your morning routine so it’s familiar on the big day.
Short, Sweet, and Special
Maybe it’s a kiss to put in her pocket, a big squeeze, a high five, or a special phrase…create a brief personal goodbye routine that’s all your own. her
Starting school is a big transition.
It can be full of mixed emotions for both parent and child.
But with a little preparation, you can smooth the way.
It’s going to be great!