How to Prepare Your Child for Nursery School

Three Parts:Preparing Your Child PhysicallyWorking on Appropriate SkillsMaking School Less Scary

Preparing your child for nursery school can seem like a daunting challenge. You can, of course, do things to help your child get ready. However, you also need to realize that every child develops at different speeds, and your child may not be ready when you want them to be no matter what you do. A good place to start preparing your child for school is with potty training.

Part 1
Preparing Your Child Physically

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    Work on potty training. Many schools will expect your child to be at least partially potty trained, especially if your child is 4-years-old or older. If your child is younger, your child may not need to be completely potty trained, but you should be working on it with your child.[1]
    • Wait for you child to be ready. Your child should start showing interest in the toilet and underwear, at about 2 or 2 and a 1/2, before you begin. Your child should also be able to understand directions and stay dry for about 2-hour periods. To make potty training a little bit more successful, make sure that your child can communicate and wants to be clean and dry. Coming to your when he/she needs a change is a wonderful readiness skill. Your child should also know what up and own, clean and dirty, and wet and dry are. They should know the names of their body parts and the potty terminology used in your house such as pee and poop. [2]
    • Get tools to help you potty train. It's difficult for your child to use a regular-sized toilet without any adaptions. You can either get your child a small toilet that is their size, or you can invest in a smaller child-sized toilet seat that fits over your regular one.[3]
    • You can also try switching to underwear or training pants. A lot of preschools will appreciate it if your child wears disposable training pants because they are easy to clean up after accidents and the child can pull them up and down making it easier for toilet usage. [4] In fact, letting your kid pick out underwear or training pants can help get your child excited about the process. It's also important to have clothes that your child can get off easily.
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    Take bathroom breaks. Try to take regular bathroom breaks throughout the day for your child to try sitting on the potty. Your child shouldn't have their diaper on while sitting on the toilet. Both boys and girls should start sitting down, even though boys will move to standing up later.[5]
    • Try having the kid sit on the toilet about half an hour after eating, as kids are more likely to need to go then. You should also encourage your kid to take a break when your kid looks like they need to go. Your kid may wiggle around or grab at their crotch area, for instance.
    • Get your kid to the bathroom as soon as you notice the signs. If your kid ends up going in the potty, make sure to show your excitement so they get the idea. Letting your kid flush the toilet can also be a fun reward for most kids.
    • Rewards can be helpful, too. You can use whatever incentive your child enjoys, such as stickers or even reading time with a parent or sibling. Give your child a reward every time they use the bathroom in the toilet.[6]
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    Practice dressing skills. Of course, your child's teacher will help when your child needs a zipper done up or shoes tied, but the teacher only has so much time. The more your child can do by themselves, the better. Try to make learning dressing skills into a game. For example, you could have your child see how fast they can dress themselves and tie their shoes, then see if they can beat their time. At the end, show excitement for the the skills they've done well.[7]
    • Let your child practice shoe tying with a string attached to a board.
    • You also find toys that help your child work on buttons, zippers, and Velcro.
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    Work on a single nap. Most preschoolers only take naps in the afternoon. The rest of the day, the kids are busy doing activities. Your child may still be on two naps a day. If so, try keeping the child up through the morning, then letting them sleep more in the afternoon.[8]
    • Try keeping your kid engaged and very active in the morning. Play outside or choose an activity that's physical instead of choosing a quieter activity like watching a movie. That way, they won't want to sleep in the morning, and they'll be tired out by the afternoon.

Part 2
Working on Appropriate Skills

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    Encourage independence. Once your child enters nursery school, they should be able to play for at least a short period of time by themselves or with other kids. They can't need to be constantly told what to do by an adult because preschool consists of some independent play with a large group of kids.[9]
    • As your child gets to nursery school age, at age 3 or 4, try encouraging your child to play independently.
    • When your child is bored and wants to play, ask them what they'd like to do. When they name it, help them get it out, and walk away to let them play. If they ask you to play with them, let them know that you'd like them to play by themselves for a little while.
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    Help your child play with others. The best way to help your child develop social skills is to plan play dates and put them in other situations where they interact with other kids, such as at the playground. You can also enroll your child in parks and recreation class to interact with other kids in a more structured setting.[10]
    • You can also help your kid learn social skills by playacting conversations with them. For example, you could pretend to be one of your child's friends and playact a conversation your child may have with another child.
    • Try focusing play dates around activities your child enjoys or is interested in. That way, they are more likely to interact with the other kids.[11]
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    Read to your child. Reading to your child introduces them to books and reading, which gets them on the road to school. Plus, reading to your child teaches them to sit still for a period of time, which is also an important skill for school.[12]
    • As you get closer to preschool, pick up some books about going to school. That can help introduce the topic to your child, giving them a chance to talk about their thoughts and emotions.
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    Work on listening skills. Your child will need to be able to listen to instructions because that's the only way a teacher has of corralling a class of kids. Work on giving your kid directions and having them follow through, such as when they're brushing they're teeth. You can also try fun activities like baking together where you tell them what they need to do.[13]
    • Other games can help encourage listening, such as I, Spy, Simon Says, Mother, May I?, and Red Light, Green Light.
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    Encourage creativity. Encouraging your kid's artistic side is not only fun for both of you, it helps develop fine and gross motor skills, which is important for starting school. Coloring, painting, sculpting, and drawing all help your kid work on those skills, and they'll have fun doing it.[14]
    • Try working on art activities together. Your kid will be even more enthusiastic about art if you get to spend time together.
    • If art isn't your kid's thing, try other activities that build motor skills, such as using building blocks or putting puzzles together. You could also try practicing some basic cooking skills.
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    Improve communication. When your child is at school, they need to be able to tell their teacher when they need things, like going to the bathroom. They don't need to speak perfect English, but they should be able to able to communicate with other adults.[15]
    • One way to encourage communication is to not immediately fill your kids' needs. That is, you may already know what your kid wants before they ask. However, make them ask for what they need before you give it to them. That will encourage them to be more communicative.
    • You can also model behavior by vocalizing needs you have. If your kid sees you asking for what you need, it will help them learn that behavior, as well.

Part 3
Making School Less Scary

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    Give your child a verbal preview. In the days leading up to nursery school, talk to your child about what will happen at school. You can tell your child where they'll be going, what they'll be doing during the day, and what will be expected of them. Try to keep it as light and fun-sounding as possible, but let your child express their fears. Try to answer any questions they have honestly and openly.[16]
    • For example, you could say things like, "In a few weeks, you'll be going to nursery school. Nursery school is when you go to a place where there are other kids. You'll get to play and listen to stories. Mommy and Daddy won't be there, but you'll have another adult called a teacher looking after you, like when you go to daycare. Does that sound like fun?"
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    Work on separation. If the first time your kid has ever been away from you or other family members is nursery school, it can make the process that much scarier. To help take some of the sting away, practice the separation by asking a friend to babysit for you.[17]
    • Start with shorter periods, such as 30 minutes, and work up to longer periods.
    • Tell your child you're going to leave, but that you'll be back soon. When you come back, you're proving to your child that you'll do what you say.
    • If your child doesn't stop crying the whole time you're gone after several sessions, they may not be ready to go to nursery school yet.[18]
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    Attend an open house. Most schools have open houses where you and your child can see the school. Seeing the school ahead of time helps you prepare your child for going there. Plus, letting your child see the classroom can get them excited about going to school, as it will probably be bright and colorful with toys and books.[19]
    • Another way to help ease your child into nursery school is to have your child meet the teacher. That way, your child will be able to see how nice the teacher is, and they'll have a friendly, familiar face on the first day of school.[20]
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    Walk past the school at recess. While school is in session, trying take your kid by the school so he or she can see the other kids playing. Seeing the fun they're having will help your child be more comfortable with the idea of going to school.
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    Encourage enthusiasm. Whenever you're talking about school, talk about how fun and exciting it will be. If your child sees you're enthusiastic, they'll be enthusiastic, too. Keep the enthusiasm up even when you're taking your kid to school for the first time. If you're upset and anxious, it will rub off on your child, while if you stay excited, it will likely be easier on them the first time.[21]
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    Give your child choices. Another way to encourage enthusiasm is to let your kid pick out school supplies in anticipation of school. Obviously, the school will have some required supplies, but letting your kid pick out their lunchbox, backpack, and even new school clothes can make them more excited.
    • Another way to give your child choices is to let them pick out things for school in the morning. For instance, you can let them choose their outfit, as well as their snack or lunch.

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