Much as I hate to say it, my baby is growing up. Suddenly he's all kid and we've left the infant and even toddler years behind. Yep, folks, we've got us a little man in the house, God help us.
Part of this now-I'm-a-big-boy process has meant moving him from his beloved in-home daycare to a more formal preschool environment. This means bye-bye to his familiar, more laid-back routine and hello to a structured program. It's a blessing in a lot of ways (not least because we really needed five-day-per-week care) but like every other transition it requires a bit of advance preparation on our part.
Bibliotherapy, if you must know.
As with every other phase in our lives, when we found a preschool for Sprout I immediately zipped off to the library in search of books to help walk him through what this change was going to mean. And fortunately I found some great titles that were really helpful in beginning to think about how his day was going to be structured, what kinds of activities he'd likely be doing and just what being a "big boy preschooler" actually meant.
First up is My Preschool by Anne Rockwell. Rockwell is a legend in kidlit, with books on just about every topic and transition kids experience. In this entry, a preschooler explains his day, walking the reader through all the fun things he gets to do and how his school works. This was a great one to start out with for Sprout, as it introduced concepts like circle time and sharing, choice time and music. Sprout likes the part where the kids do yoga, especially the boy in tree pose ("That's silly, Mama! He's not a tree!"). Rockwell also touches on the conflicts that inevitably arise at school, when our hero's block tower gets knocked over by his friend Will. The incident is swiftly and satisfyingly resolved, and the kids head outside for playtime. Like all of Rockwell's work, My Preschool rings with clarity and simplicity, and its smudgy monoprint art strikes just the right note.
Little School by Beth Norling has a more diverse focus, following 20 little ones throughout their day at preschool. This one has a great representation of diversity, with children of multiple ethnicities depicted engaging in all the usual preschool activities. I love the fact that each child's experience is unique and yet they are all experiencing the same basic framework of art, play time, story time, etc. Norling presents every one of the kids as an individual and shows how the program they are in develops and builds their day. This one's practical, too - even bathroom time is included, in a tasteful way. Colorful and full of detail, we loved looking at this one together. (NOTE: this is an older title and not widely available for purchase; check your library or used bookstore!)
And though the notion of taking turns wasn't unfamiliar to Sprout, we felt he needed to understand that in preschool, no one gets their way all the time. For that we turned to Sometimes You Get What You Want by Meredith Gary, illustrated by Lisa Brown. In this simple yet effective title, a pair of siblings experiences school together. Each spread presents two scenarios: in one, the child gets what he or she wants, while in the other, he or she goes along with the group. For example, "Sometimes your friends want to do what you're doing. Sometimes they want to do something else." This quiet but affecting title really got Sprout to thinking, and we have revisited it a couple of times since preschool began. Slowly he's realizing that it's all right if things don't always go his way, that he'll get a turn, though it isn't always soon enough (it's a work in progress).
If you've got a little one starting a new school this fall, consider conducting a little bibliotherapy of your own. Books can present great opportunities to see behaviors being modeled, and to soothe apprehensions about what a typical day will be like. Best of all, they open up the chance to dialogue with your kiddo about what preschool means - and they might just make everyone feel a little more at ease with this whole growing-up scenario.