My four-year-old daughter will be entering pre-K next month, and needs a little help getting ready and calm for this big transition.
She started preschool when she was just a few months past her second birthday, so basically as a baby. She was one of the smallest in her class then, and still in diapers. Now she is the big kid, and is used to and comforted by the routines of her preschool, the teachers she loves, and the small, welcoming classroom that is located in a Brooklyn brownstone.
We've been talking about pre-K off-and-on for most of 2016, because we use "let's talk about it!" as a coping strategy. Since she is four, we have the same conversation again and again, which helps her be calm. My back-to-school goal is for her to feel ready for pre-K, with a good idea of what to expect.
Below are some of the strategies I've used:
Telling stories: my daughter has invisible friends she named the "booty-bops." There are 23 booty-bops, they are all girls and they are very small ("the size of a leaf." she says). The booty-bops live a parallel life to my daughter, and whatever she does, they do on a small level (so, for example, they go to "Booty-bop preschool," which is right next door and identical to our "regular preschool," only everything—the toys and furniture—are very small).
Most days, I tell her a story about "the booty-bops' first day of pre-K," which is a step-by-step explanation of what it will be like to go to pre-K. They walk up the street, go to the classroom, greet the teacher, find their cubby, have circle time, and so forth. This story helps her imagine what pre-K will be like—actually very similar to preschool in its routines—through the booty-bops' eyes, which is fun for her, and less pressure than imagining it for only herself.
Reading books: A four-year-old's world is small, and it doesn't occur to her that other children have many of the same experiences and worries. Books are helpful because they demonstrate how much we all have in common. Also, I can show her how much of the school routine is universal (friendly teachers, reading books, playing at recess, and so forth.)
My mom has been reading The Night Before Preschool (Natasha Wing) with her, a book that adresses school jitters by adapting 'Twas the Night Before Christmas. Our Raise a Reader blog also has a terrific list of books that can help with all sorts of school-related nerves.
(...And wish us luck in September!)