Helping Preschoolers Transition Between School and Summer

Trading Preschool for Summer Fun

Hispanic mother and son playing football outdoors
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Your child’s experience this spring at preschool will help determine the success of transitioning to summer fun and then back to school in the fall. Does your preschooler love her teacher or have a new best friend to play with during daycare? Routines such as lunch time, discovery centers, and even become a very important ritual for many youngsters, and change from the expected can just beg for meltdowns.

Parents can minimize, if not avoid, preschool temper tantrums through careful preparation and patience.

School to Summer

If your child has enjoyed going to a Parent’s Day Out or a preschool program this year, then transitioning to a summer at home and warm-weather fun may be harder than you’d think. Toddlers can develop close friends at their school, who they may miss not seeing on a daily basis, or have a strong bond with their teacher. Many preschoolers also crave routine, something that summer months tend to be without, or at least greatly loosened. If your child will not be attending preschool during the summer months, don’t think your child will be excited and ready to tell everyone goodbye. A youngster may initially be excited about being home with mom or dad over the summer months, only to be ready to return to school only after a few weeks and prior to the new school year beginning.

What should parents do to prepare?

  • Involve your youngster in summer planning. If your child will be taking swimming lessons, seek her input about which session or time to choose (that is, if you’re willing to go with what your tot chooses). If you are planning a vacation, begin talking about where you’re going, what you’ll be doing while there and how the trip will include a ride on an airplane or a long family drive.
  • Give your toddler a calendar to check off the days until summer vacation begins, and then to check off the days until the return to school. A calendar check off lets your toddler feel more in control of time.
  • Exchange personal information with the parents of your child’s best school buddy and arrange for play dates over the summer. Keeping the friend connection alive during summer will help the transition go more smoothly come fall.
  • See if occasional care is available. While you may not require child care in the summer months, it might be advantageous to let your child participate in a field trip or attend certain days. This allows your child to remain familiar with the school routine and keep in touch with young friends. Plus, a day out for your child means a day for you to get much-needed things done without kids in tow. Check with your child care to see if this is an option. Sometimes teachers of part-time care such as parent’s day out programs are still willing to babysit kids for a nominal fee.
  • Maintain a routine as much as possible. If you’re planning on having your child return to preschool in the fall, try and keep up as many routines as possible. If your child carries in a backpack during the school year, encourage her to pack one for outings during the summer as well. Do you best to maintain sleep schedules and wake-up times, as well as meal routines. If you have a designated reading time with your child during the school year, keep a similar schedule during summer months as well.
  • Have your child create a simple memory book of things done over the summer to bring back to school to share with classmates when a new preschool year begins. The book can be as simple as ticket stubs, photographs, a drawing or two, and any other age-appropriate sentiment that your toddler will love to talk about during show and tell.

Summer to School

If your child has had an “iffy” preschool experience and then has been home with loved ones all summer, expect that he won’t be eager to return to school come fall. Youngsters can remember how Sammie bit him or Emma wouldn’t be her friend months later, so if you’re planning on having your child attend the same preschool, prepare to talk about some of the really good times and fun activities your child did last year.

Also, if your child seems particularly reluctant to go back to preschool in the near future, check with the preschool teacher about some really exciting school plans and share those with your child. Here are tips for making the transition easier.

  • Re-set schedules to a school-year routine. If your schedules have slipped (and most families have), begin school bed times, wake-up calls, and daily routines in accordance with a school schedule.
  • Have your child participate in back-to-school shopping and overall readiness. If your child’s preschool has a supply list, let your child participate in the picking out of new supplies, nap pillow, and school clothes. Take a picture of your child before and after getting a back-to-school haircut, and let your kid have a decision in which backpack to use or purchase. Your child is a year older now, and a character that was so “it” last year may be out now, so as long as family finances allow it, getting an inexpensive new backpack and putting the supplies in so they’ll be ready to go will help to build anticipation.
  • Visit the preschool ahead of time. Don’t wait until the first day to go into a child’s preschool. If at all possible, plan a visit or even two ahead of time, even if your child went there last year. A tour will let your child remember the school and where everything is, and to take a peek at his classroom (many kids will move classrooms come fall). If your child’s preschool teacher is there, introduce your child to her so they become acquainted.
  • Let your child ask you anything about school ahead of time.
    Kids can get the funniest notions in their heads about school and the more you can explain or discount (yes, you really do get to eat your own lunch at school), the more relaxed they will be.
  • Take your time on the first day. Don’t get in such a rush of the first day back to preschool. Many kids need to ease back into a situation until they feel safe and secure. Stick around until you see your child loosening up some. Hopefully, he will know some kids from last year; if your child is attending a preschool for the first time this year, help out with some simple introductions. It’s possible your child will be clingy or shy, and even perhaps shed a tear or two. That’s completely normal, and your child will quickly be okay.
  • Know when to leave. Don’t overstay your welcome by remaining in the classroom past getting your child settled, giving him a quick hug of assurance, and introducing him around. After that, let the teacher do her job and getting the school year started off successfully.
  • Give your child one-on-one time when you get home. Your child can’t wait to tell you about his day, and whether the information is good or bad, take time to really listen to what your child says happened, friends he’s made or kids he hopes to avoid, and plans for the rest of the week. Exclaim over any student work or papers brought home, and congratulate your child on being a big kid at school!

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