Updated: 16/08/10 : 10:46:00
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Top 10 tips for getting ready for preschool from IPPA

The Irish Preschool Play Association has over 100 members in Sligo & Donegal

With the introduction of the ECCE scheme (Early Childhood Care & Education) more children than ever will start preschool shortly.  Irene Gunning, CEO of Irish Preschool Play Association (IPPA) which represents 50,000 families nationwide through its membership of crèches, preschools, after school and parent & toddler groups including over 100 members in childcare across Sligo and Donegal, has the following tips to get the children and the parents off to the best possible start.  (See www.ippa.ie or contact Irene on 01 4630016 or 087 4174004 for interview re Tips below.)

The majority of parents already have their child’s name down on their chosen local preschool, but for those who don’t there is still time to contact their local preschools and check availability. Parents should visit the preschool and chat to the manager about how it operates, start time, finish times, lunch policy, the typical daily routine of children and whether the service is part of the ECCE scheme and if there are optional extras to consider.  A shortcut to consider is to check in with your local county childcare committee who can give you a list of the ECCE registered preschools in the area and details about the ECCE scheme and answers to frequently asked questions are up on the website of the Office of the Minister for Children & Youth Affairs www.omc.ie

Once the place is booked most preschool managers will give you an induction letter or talk through the practical ways to get your child off to the best start and what to expect from day one.  Preschool teachers are ready for the settling in phase and are totally committed to ensuring that the child is comfortable and happy from the start.  You will see that the preschool curriculum is a gentle stepping stone onto the education ladder, where children meet and make new friends, learn the importance of turn taking and sharing and most importantly build in their own confidence and life skills through a child centred quality programme of activity and play.

In the meantime, here are some practical tips to calm the nerves in August:

   1. Dig out that induction letter you got from your preschool manager with details about school bags, timetable, healthy lunches etc. and make sure you are organised in advance, so that you are not unduly stressed on the first few days.  Will you walk or drive – decide in advance?  Make sure the school-bag and lunch box you choose are easy to manage and think about the best clothes for your child to wear.  That doesn’t mean their Sunday best.  It means clothes your child can play in, without fear of paint splashes and clothes that are easy to manage when visiting the toilet.

   2. Talk to your child about preschool but resist the temptation of hyping it up too much as the child might be totally underwhelmed with the reality.  Refer to the teachers – who you’ve most likely already met - by their first names and tell your child about the other children, the toys, the painting, the play dough and the kind of activities you know that will interest them.  Many children have already visited the preschool in advance of term start.  If not, you could ask a child you know in the neighbourhood who has attended the group to give your child a rundown on what it’s like.  Focusing on the positive aspects of course!

   3. In the week before start day explain to your child that you or another loved one will be dropping and collecting them from preschool and how that will work.  Tell your child the two things you, or your minder, will do while they are at preschool to give the child a sense of the short time involved, like going to the bank and preparing lunch.  It’s not too long and not long too short – in fact just enough time to have fun before being collected!

   4. On reaching the door each morning, smile and treat teacher like a friend.  Relax and don’t fuss and let your child know that you’re confident that they can manage. Remember that your child is alert to the emotional messages you send out, so don’t panic and don’t let the child see you crying.  If they do, explain that you are crying because this is a happy day.

   5. If your child is fine going in on the first day, just walk away and don’t look for problems where none exist.  The majority of children will sail in, no problem.  Treat yourself to a cup of coffee and a little treat – this is a big day for you too!

   6. If your child does cry going in, follow the lead of the teacher.  Often children who come in the door crying are okay and laughing five minutes later.  Rest assured that if your child is not settling the teacher will contact you.

   7. Make sure to return for pick up on time as children can fret when they see other children leave before them.

   8. Don’t expect the teacher to give you detailed feedback in the first two weeks when the whole group is really settling in.  If there is any problem teacher will let you know, otherwise no news is good news.

   9. After the session, ask your child about the sand, the books, the toys and the other children.  If your questions are specific, you’ll get more information.

  10. Finally, make sure you are not under time constraints in the first week of preschool.  You’ve got to be prepared to stay and help them settle in – so make sure you have that flexibility.  It is important that your child doesn’t feel pressurised or hurried.