Friday, December 4, 2009

Samuel Gultom - Preschool

The three or four-year-old who is outgoing takes to preschool like a duck to water and doesn’t need any gentle introduction. It may be quite different with a sensitive three-year-old who still feels closely attached to his parents.

If a parent leaves him at preschool the first day, he might not make a fuss right away. After a while he might miss his parent. He might become frightened. The next day he might not want to leave home.

Introduce preschool gradually

Most preschools introduce children to their programs gradually. This is particularly helpful for the shy or sensitive child. Parents can stay with their children for as long as they wish. For several days a parent might stay nearby while their child plays and then take her home again after a time. Each day the parent can stay for a longer period. Meanwhile, your child is building up attachments to the teacher and other children. These will give her a sense of security when her parent no longer stays.

Sometimes a child seems quite happy for several days, even after his parent has left him. Then he gets hurt and suddenly wants his mummy or daddy. In that case, the teacher can help the parents decide if one of them should come back for a number of days.

If you are staying around the preschool, it’s best to remain in the background. The idea is to let your child develop her own desire to enter the group, so that she forgets her need for you.

Think about your own feelings

Sometimes your anxiety is greater than your child’s. If you say goodbye three times over, with a worried expression, your child might think, ‘It looks as if something awful might happen if I stay here alone’.

It's natural for a tenderhearted parent to worry about leaving a small child for the first time. Let the preschool teacher, who often has a lot of experience, advise you.

Be firm

A child who starts with some genuine anxiety about separating from the parent can learn that protesting allows him to avoid the situation.

She might then progressively use this to avoid preschool. When a child becomes reluctant or fearful about returning to a preschool with understanding teachers, it is usually better for the parents to act quite confident and firm and explain that the teacher will look after her and that she will be fine.

It can sometimes help to have someone different take a reluctant child to preschool. In any case, the child should not be deceived. He should be told that he has become friends with the teacher and the other children. Tomorrow his parent will not be staying at preschool. The parent should say goodbye once, cheerfully, then leave.

In the long run, it’s better for children to outgrow their dependence than to give in to it. If a child’s terror is extreme, the situation should be discussed with a child mental health professional.

Here are some tips to help you and your child ease into the day-to-day practicalities of preschool.

Arrival and departure

Children’s Services regulations require parents and guardians to sign the child’s name and arrival time in a supplied book when children are dropped off. Parents also need to sign that they have picked up their child and at what time. This is a legal requirement for preschool.


Comfortable, loose fitting clothing that doesn’t restrict your child’s movement is best for preschool. He'll need a hat for playing outside. It’s a good idea to check your child can handle zips and buttons so he can go to the toilet. See Dressing your toddler for more information.


Some preschools ask you to bring fruit to share with the group; others prefer your child to eat their own snack. Some long-day care programs may ask parents to supply the child's lunch, other programs supply lunch. Ask your preschool for details. See How to pack a lunchbox for more information.

Illness record

Preschools must keep a formal written record of any medication your child needs. You will need to provide a written authority for this.

It’s a good idea to speak with preschool staff if any problems arise. Working things out quickly can prevent bigger issues.

Safety rules

All preschools have safety rules which parents need to know. These will include:

* who has permission to collect your child
* any out-of-bounds areas for children
* traffic issues, such as parking.


Sick children are best kept at home, for their own benefit and so they don’t pass germs on to other children. If your child has an infectious illness it’s a good idea to let your preschool know so they can inform other parents.


You need to supply a hat, because your child’s skin is more sensitive to UV radiation than adult skin. Preschools are responsible for providing shaded play areas and making sure children use sunscreen and hats.

It's best to avoid outdoor activities between 11 am and 3 pm in hot weather (and 4 pm in daylight savings). See Sun care for more information.
Toys from home

Each preschool has its own policy on whether children can bring toys from home. It’s best to check before your child packs his favourite teddy in his bag.

Parent participation

Preschools rely heavily on parents helping out. If you are able to help out, there are lots of opportunities to take part in the day-to-day activities or to be involved with preschool management.

Educational programs

Your preschool’s philosophy will be outlined in their information booklet. Details of the educational program will be displayed in the building and you can discuss this further with staff. You will also get a regular newsletter keeping you up-to-date with the current program.

Your preschool will have policies to deal with issues such as:

* fee payment
* managing behaviour
* asthma
* allergies.

This information should be on display within the preschool.


Fees and the way in which they are collected will vary from preschool to preschool. It’s a good idea to ask about your preschool’s policy ahead of time. Parents who hold a Commonwealth Health Care Card are eligible for a $250 annual preschool fee subsidy.

source: By Dr Benjamin Spock updated by Dr Robert Needlman


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