CHOOSING A PRESCHOOL OR KINDY
Deciding which preschool or kindy is right for your child might be as simple as a matter of geography, or it might involve some research on your part into different philosophies and approaches, as you consider which will best suit your child and family circumstances. A good place to start is the Ministry of Education website, www.minedu.govt.nz/parents.aspx, which includes a list of kindies and preschools by location and information on the "20 hours free ECE" programme". The Ministry of Education conducts reviews of all educational institutions, and this includes preschools and kindies, so once you have found one or two that you think might be suitable, visit www.ero.govt.nz to read the reports on them. You might also like to visit them to get a feel for the atmosphere there.
For more help with choosing an ECE provider to best suit your family, check out our article Choosing An Early Childhood Education Provider
Once you have decided on a preschool or kindy, put your child's
name on the waiting list as soon as possible - some have long
waiting lists so the earlier you enroll them, the sooner he or she
will be able to start. Some parents place their child on the
waiting list for two or three preschools at the same time, and then
take whichever place becomes available first.
Young children often struggle with the concept of time, so trying to get him or her excited about something that isn't going to happen for a while is tricky, and often pointless - they will respond better if you begin the preparation process a week or two before they are due to start. If your child has older siblings, he or she is probably already quite excited about being "grown-up" enough for kindy or preschool, but if not, spending time away from home might seem like a foreign, and frightening, prospect.
Broach the subject at a time when your child is settled and feels secure, perhaps at a family mealtime or when you have some one-on-one time. Talk about the exciting activities that he or she will be able to participate in at kindy, and be sure to give him or her the opportunity to ask questions - they will have plenty!
Most kindies or preschools will allow you and your child to visit before the official start date, to give both of you a chance to see how things work there, and how your child will be spending his or her time when there. It's also a chance for your child to meet the teachers/staff, and will help make the big day seem less overwhelming.
What your child will need to take with him to preschool or kindy will vary, depending on what they supply, but things your child is sure to need are:
• A backpack - letting your child choose one will help build excitement about starting kindy.
• One or two spare changes of clothes
• A good, sturdy pair of shoes
They may also need:
• A lunch box - again, letting your child choose one is a good idea
• A drink bottle
• Spare knickers/undies in case of accidents - even children who have been toilet trained for some time may have the odd accident at preschool while they settle in
• An apron/coverall to protect his or her clothes when painting
• Sun hat and sunscreen during the warmer months
• Gumboots and jacket/raincoat during winter
Make sure everything is clearly named, either with labels or with indelible laundry marker to avoid your child's belongings ending up in the lost property box.
THE BIG DAY
When the big day dawns, don't be surprised if you feel a little emotional - starting preschool is a huge milestone in your child's life, it's normal to feel a bit misty-eyed!
Let your child pack his or her own backpack, and if they have to take lunch, involve them in choosing what goes into their lunchbox (within reason, of course!). Try to allow enough time that it isn't a rush to get ready. Don't forget to take lots of photos, both of your child getting ready at home, and them settling in at preschool.
When you arrive at kindy, be prepared to stay with your child for at least a few minutes. Some kindies will encourage you to stay with your child until he or she feels comfortable, even if this means the whole session for the first few days, while others will encourage you to leave fairly promptly and have a teacher take care of settling your child. Be clear on this before you arrive, and discuss it with your child.
If your child is having difficulty adjusting to kindy or preschool, here are a few ideas that might help:
• Starting a reward chart for staying at kindy for the whole session by his- or herself
• Making a booklet about your child's time at preschool - include photos of you dropping them off, of them participating in activities they enjoy at preschool, and then of you picking them up again, to reinforce the idea that you will come back to get them once the session is finished
• Taking note of other children your child plays with at kindy or talks about at home and encouraging him or her to build relationships
If you have concerns about your child's settling, be sure to talk to the teachers who look after him or her - preschool is a whole new adventure for your child, and they are experienced in helping children settle in.