Finding The Right Preschool and 3 Tips to Make the First Day of School Tear Free
This post is sponsored by KinderCare. All the opinions are my own.
Leaving Kai at 5 weeks old to go back to work was probably one of the hardest things I've had to do. Let that sink in for a bit. 5 week. She was barely sleeping in 3-4 hour stretches at the time. I was just getting the hang of breastfeeding. Emotionally, physically, mentally, I was not even close to being prepared for the long days away from my newest love. I remember vividly having to stop during my calls and pump in the car in the Houston heat every 2 hours. All the physical discomfort aside, none one could prepare me of the mom guilt ahead. At the time, Kai was with family in my own home. I felt and overwhelming amount of guilty for leaving her but I knew she was safe and well cared for. Fast forward 2 years, juggling a full time job, a side hustle and a balanced family life doesn't get any easier. As Kai grows, I have learned some very important life lessons and I am a more confident, less panicked parent now. Finding quality care for our child, especially the right preschool, brought back all the emotions of the first day going back to work. To help you navigate this emotional time, I have put together 3 tips to finding the right preschool. My mother in law was a pre-school teacher for 26 years and has taught hundred of 2-3 year olds. I also interviewed her for her top 3 tips to make the first day of school tear free! If you are starting the process, be sure to check out KinderCare's Super Simple Guide for finding a preschool. It explains How to Find the Very Best Child Care for Your Family in 8 Simple Steps.
How to find the right preschool:
Remove the Mom Guilt
Go into the discovery process with confidence. There is so much pressure and guilt us moms feel whether working full time or as full time parent. Both have their own unique challenges but know that you are not alone and not judged in the process! Recognizing it's time to seek a center you trust might be the best decision you make for your family. We chose to start preschool at age 2 because of the need for social development for Kai. Her personality has always been on a more reserved side but I can tell she is eager to make friends and curious about interactions. The more educated I was about my own needs, the less mom guilt I felt. This is a totally necessary and acceptable step.
Times are Changing, Busy Parents Need Online Resources
You might think finding the right preschool for your child means a lot of leg work and school visits right off the bat. On the contrary, technology has really affected the pre school search process. Use those to your advantage! I have seen moms ask for recommendation on NextDoor! Reviews, lists and accreditation programs are your bffs. Also, look for virtual tours, ways to communicate with the care team that fits busy moms needs. I loved that KinderCare explained their teaching philosophy right online with a sample curriculum. The virtual tour tool was interactive, informative and totally put my mind at ease.
When Touring the Center Take note of the Kids
This is a pro tip from my teacher Mother In Law. Cheryl said it's important not to only evaluate the classrooms and meet the teacher but pay special attention to the children when touring a preschool. Are they engaged in meaningful interaction? Do they have creative play? How do they spend their active time? Those are all good points to recognize if they are important to you. Overall, do the kids look happy? I found this to be the number 1 question that helped us in the decision. KinderCare believes that purposeful play is early education. Each day is packed with carefully designed activities structured around the six main development areas. They use art, dress up imaginative play, music and more to express emotions, and develop cognitive skills. Read more about KinderCar's curriculums here.
Look for accreditation and meet the teachers
What is accreditation?
"Accreditation is an official review process performed by a nationally-recognized outside agency. The process of achieving and maintaining accreditation is no easy feat. It involves staff and family participation, classroom observations, and health and safety checks. The accrediting agencies have high standards that often go above and beyond our state’s minimum licensing requirements for child care centers. We have to meet these high standards in order to achieve this mark of excellence."
Accreditation was one of the most important things to look for according to Cheryl. It's extremely highly regarded amongst the teachers to teach at an nationally accredited center. When you are touring, ask the facility if the teachers are licensed and if the school is accredited and by whom. Accreditation insures your child will be in a safe environment, taught by experienced professionals with an appropriate curriculum. One of my favorite parts about KinderCare is reading their testimonials online. So many parents directly mentioned the directors and teachers who made an incredible impact on their child.
Tear Free First Day Drop Off Tips
1. Get a schedule from the teachers or center ahead of time
Discuss schedule with children to help them get an idea of the day and set expectations. Talk about reach activity so they are mentally prepared for whats to come. KinderCare encourages communication between parent and teacher. You can even email and write notes to schedule meetings right online from the Meet the Teacher's page. In my experience, the more communication the better!
2. Tour the Center and familiarize child with room and playground
Touring the center before the first day with your child. Familiarize them with the classroom and playground as often as you can. We take Kai up to school once every other week so that on the first day, she will already know it inside and out. Just walking around the grounds or outside of the building while talking to them about that happens inside schools is a huge confidence builder!
3. Develop a quick special goodbye routine and practice it
Make up a special, short goodbye and practice it a week before to set expectation. It can be a kiss on both cheeks, a short hug and a high five. Make it special by calling it a school goodbye. Set the expectation that mommy and daddy will say our special goodbye and will come and get you after school. The more cool, calm you act, the more safe and confident they feel.
No matter what stage in the school search you are, KinderCare's Super Simple Guide is an amazing tool with thought starters. See here for How to Find the Very Best Child Care for Your Family in 8 Simple Steps.