So you’ve phoned up, booked your slot and the day has arrived to take your child and yourself along to your ﬁrst pre-school activity class. What should you expect?
Firstly try to be on time or even a little early if you can to your ﬁrst session at least. I know this can be easier said than done, but for a small child walking in to a new space and meeting a new adult and several other children can be very daunting.
Getting to the venue a bit early gives your child a chance to explore the space, get to know the teacher and the teacher can also get to know your child’s character a little which will help with how they will interact during the class. You are also more likely to feel relaxed if you haven’t had to rush to get to the class.
Secondly, don’t expect at ﬁrst for your child to join in or focus the whole way through. Most pre school classes are thirty to forty ﬁve minutes in length. This is a long time for an under ﬁve to concentrate. To begin with they may not always stay still when they are supposed to or move around when everyone else is doing so, but remember this is a new experience for them; they are yet to learn the etiquette of a class so let them ﬁnd their feet quite literally. As the weeks go on they will start to get familiar with the routine of that particular class (and every good pre-school class will have a routine). As long as they seem happy at the class, that is the main priority at ﬁrst.
Some children may not join in at all at ﬁrst, they may prefer to sit and watch. I had a child once that sat and watched for several weeks and then suddenly stood up and joined in every aspect of the class perfectly. Her Mum said she had been re-enacting the class at home for weeks. She had obviously just been taking everything in and wanted to feel conﬁdent before stepping out in class. So be patient and your little one will soon start to respond to the many things taught such as sharing, turn taking, listening and copying the activities taught.
Thirdly expect to join in. In 99% of classes I have taught for this age group the children respond better if parents/carers actively join in with their child and this is even more important the younger the child is. You may feel a little silly to begin with but if everyone is doing the same, no one will be looking at how good your movement skills are or listening to your singing.
By joining in you are saying to your child ‘This is fun and it’s OK to join in.’ The other thing that tends to happen if grown-ups don’t join in is that we have a tendency to chat and that can be very distracting to the children in the class. So do join in and have fun and remember this is an excellent opportunity to have one on one playtime with your child away from the piles of washing, the emails that need answering and all the other distractions that daily life can bring to stop us having fun with our kids.
Finally, your child will have good weeks and bad weeks – we all do. There will be some weeks when your child may seem to have no focus at all and others where they join in with every activity. Many things can affect this – how much sleep they have had, when they last ate, what other activities they have done that day etc. so don’t be disappointed if they have a bad week.
I know some parents feel embarrassed if their child hasn’t joined in as much but the teacher will not be worried and will have numerous methods of encouraging the child to join in.
Taking your child to pre school classes can have many beneﬁts – socially, developmentally and in preparing them for the structure of school itself.
I hope the above is helpful in making the most out the lovely pre school classes you can attend with your little one.