How do I prepare my child (and me!) for preschool?

tips Step 1: Increase your child's social activities
Preschool is a vital time for consolidating social development, and from day one it is important that each child can get along with other students. If your child has spent much time interacting with other children, then group activities such as sharing, taking turns, initiating conversations and playing cooperatively may be difficult. Help your child get used to being part of a group by arranging play dates with one or two peers so that they are able to practice basic social skills.

Step 2: Jump into character and role play
It may feel strange as an adult to play 'pretend' but remember kids have fantastic imaginations and love to role-play. You can use this to help them visualize positive aspects of preschool. Take turns in playing the role of teacher and child doing fun activities that will help set positive expectations about school life and get them excited about starting school life.

Step 3: Visit the school to reduce the unknowns
Familiarity helps children (as well as parents) to feel safe, so minimizing unknowns is a must. If you are able to, try to visit the center to get them used to the environment and the teachers. Make sure you know what will happen on your child's first day so you are able to feel confident and secure. If you are feeling anxious, your child will feel sense that anxiety. This will make the separation an upsetting experience for both child and parent.

Step 4: Prepare and practice the parting ritual
As hard as it is to say goodbye, when the big day comes try to be as cheerful and light-hearted as possible. This helps minimize any transfer of negative emotions from you to your child, which could intensify any distress they are already feeling. To achieve this you may need to practice before hand. In the lead up to their first day, you could practice this ritual when you drop them off at their grandparent's home, visit a friend's house to play, or when they are leaving the home while another family member remains behind. Creating a little ritual, like a goodbye kiss, that you do each time you drop them off will also give your child a sense of consistency so they know you will always be back to pick them up at the end of the day.

Children and Sleep
Why Sleep Matters ?
Sleep is as important to our health and well-being as food and water, but most of us don't get enough of it. Sleep deprivation is currently one of the most pervasive health concerns in the United States. For children, sleep plays a critical role in their healthy growth and development. Beyond simply affecting children's moods, behaviours, and academic performances, insufficient sleep has also been associated with lower social skills and learning disabilities.

How Much Sleep is Enough ?
When experts study the sleep needs of children, they consider the amount of sleep children need in a 24-hour period, including naps. Since every child is different, sleep charts are not exact; however, there are some agreed-upon ranges for children of different ages*:
» Birth to 6 months old: 11 to 18 hours of sleep each day
» Six months to 2 years old: 11 to 16 hours of sleep each day
» Three years old: 10 to 14 hours of sleep each day
» Four to 6 years old: 9 to 14 hours of sleep each day
» Seven to 9 years old: 9 to 12 hours of sleep each day
» Ten to 12 years old: 8 to 11 hours of sleep each day
» Thirteen to 15 years old: 8 to 10 hours of sleep each day

Do these numbers surprise you? If so, you are not alone. Most parents are unaware of just how much sleep their children require in a 24-hour period.

Teaching Children Good Sleep Habits
Sleep habits-both positive and negative-are established early in a child's life, often in infancy. The key, of course, is to help your child establish good sleep habits early. Here are some suggestions.

» Establish a schedule of the day's main events, such as the same waking time, nap time, and meal times. Regular routines offer babies and young children comfort and security.
» Vary your child's daytime activities, making sure they are interesting and varied. Be sure to include physical activities and outdoor activities as much as possible.
» Determine a simple bedtime routine that is well suited to your child, such as reading a book or talking for a few minutes about the day's events.
» Give some time to determining your child's ideal bedtime. For example, observe her over several evenings and note when she begins to slow down and act physically tired. That is the time she should be going to sleep, so plan to begin her bedtime routine prior to that time.
» Make bedtime a special time. It should be a time to interact with your child in a way that is secure and loving, yet firm. Go through your bedtime routine together, then it's lights out and time to go to sleep.

Children and Sun Exposure
When the sun's out on a nice day, children naturally want to spend more time outdoors. There is a sense of freedom with outdoor play, and many indoor activities take on an entirely new dimension when played outdoors. But with the warmer weather comes sunshine, and family members must remain alert to some of the special health and safety concerns that accompany the sunny days of summer.

All skin, no matter what color, responds to sun exposure. In addition, research indicates most people experience between 50% and 80% of their lifetime sun exposure before age 18. Therefore, it is important to protect young children from dangerous levels of sun exposure.

The following practices will help protect children as well as older family members from the potentially harmful effects of the sun.
» Use sunscreen consistently. Children should always wear sunscreen outside during the summer months when the UV rays are more intense. Generously apply sunscreen 20 to 30 minutes before children go outside. Reapply sunscreen every two to three hours-more often if water play is involved.

» Avoid the strongest rays of the day. Plan outdoor times during the morning and late afternoon hours. Avoid times when the sun is most intense-noon to 2 p.m. in most areas.

» Keep outdoor play and family fun to a reasonable length. Limit the length of time children spend in the sun to help prevent overexposure and sunburns.

» Cover up. During family or school outings, be sure to bring clothing that can cover sensitive skin areas. Lightweight long-sleeve shirts and hats with wide brims provide good sun protection.

» Encourage children to take play breaks in shady areas. Children can still enjoy outdoor play without spending all of their time in the sunniest areas.

» Offer fluids frequently. To prevent dehydration, offer water or other healthy beverages during outdoor play and fun in the sun.

» Be a good role model. Children learn by watching the adults in their lives. When older family members model use of sunscreen and other protective measures, children are encouraged to follow along.

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