You have enjoyed the luxury of your mom and/or dad caring for your child for the past stretch of time. And now, due to any one of a number of reasons, your child will be transitioning into an early childhood education program. You may wonder: What are the advantages of early childhood education programs? How can you ease the transition for you and your child? And how can you make this positive for grandma and/or grandpa too?
It is always good to focus on the positives. Care by a grandparent offers one-on-one attention and the specialized care and love that is uniquely provided by a family member. High quality early childhood programs, on the other hand, offer many benefits of its own.
Benefits of Early Childhood Education Programs
- Child care centers and preschools are designed to specifically meet children's developmental and safety needs. They have child-size furnishings and educational materials. They often have safety features not present in homes such as resilient surfacing under playground equipment. They also are regularly inspected by licensing agencies.
- Teachers are required to participate in specific training in caring for and educating young children.
- There are opportunities for children to develop cooperative relationships with other children, skills which they will need for the rest of their lives in sports, work and everyday interactions.
- Most children today enter school with some early education program experience. The expectation is that children come to school with the skills to function in a group, work independently, and follow directions at a minimum. These skills are readily incorporated into early education programs.
When possible, think about the timing of the transition. Some families find that as your child heads into toddlerhood, this is a good time to transition from care by a grandparent to center-based care; however, each family is different and you have to decide what is right for you, your child and their grandparent.
The Role of Grandparents in Early Childhood Education
Grandparents may struggle as much with this transition as you and your child do. To ease the transition for grandparents, find out:
- Is it possible for the grandparents to visit the child care or preschool to help ease their concerns? If not, why not? There doesn’t seem to be a good reason to not welcome grandparent visits and not allowing these could be a red flag.
- Is there a role for the grandparents at the school on an ongoing basis? For example, could the grandparent do occasional drop-off and/or pick-up? Is there a volunteer program he or she could become involved in, in your child's classroom or elsewhere?
Tips for Easing the Transition to an Early Childhood Education Program
Whether transitioning from grandparent care or starting a child care or preschool program, here are some tips for transitioning into school.
- Visit the child care center or preschool ahead of time with your child if possible. Ask to meet the new teachers and see the new room ahead of time. Request a conference to talk about your child and his needs and skills. Share how you like to receive classroom communication (verbally, on a daily sheet, phone call, email, etc.) and the level of detail you would like.
- Ask if your school encourages "gradual enrollment" (easing your child into the new classroom a few hours a day with gradually increasing lengths). Your child’s grandparents may be able to help with the gradual transition if that is something you would like.
And similar to the e-family news article about transitioning into a toddler care program, the more communication you can have with your child's new teachers prior to the transition, the better. Acknowledge the milestone of the first day at the center with a picture of your child and grandparent at the school or classroom door or create another transition ritual which you carry with you through your child’s school years. Congratulations on reaching this important milestone.
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