The UPK program focuses on pre-academic skills (reading, writing and mathematical concepts) and the social skills a child will need upon entrance into Kindergarten.
Classroom learning time is open-ended and child-centered. Children learn by making independent choices and exploring the environment around them. In this way, they develop skills to become “lifelong learners.”
This is a"big step" forward and an exciting time for you and your little one! While stepping into a school for the first time is filled with lots of wonderful new experiences for your child, for some kids, it can also be a little scary because it's new. With this in mind, below are some tips that will help you establish new routines, calm first-day jitters, and prepare your child for the first day of UPK
Before school begins, if you can, visit the classroom together at least once, preferably when other children and your child's future teacher(s) are there. This will help familiarize him with his new school and learning environment, and help ease the "fear of the unknown." If you can't go into the school or classroom, drive or walk to the school and show your child where the school is located. You might also consider taking a walk around the neighborhood to familiarize your child with his new school surroundings.
Be sure to talk about school with enthusiasm at home in the days and weeks leading up to the first day, and as the first days and weeks unfold. Try to avoid the temptation to say things like "There's nothing to be afraid of," and instead, help calm her fears with information about what preschool will be like and how her days will unfold with new teachers and classmates.
Read books about going to preschool. There are so many wonderful stories about characters who go to school for the very first time. Use stories to help prompt lots of conversation about what preschool will be like, talk about the characters' feelings about going to school for the first time, and share observations from the story about the preschool experience. Reading books and sharing stories about what you enjoyed about school will help your child mentally prepare for what his new experiences will be like.
4. Adjust routines early. Talk about the new school routine: what time you'll be getting up and going to school, who your child's teacher is and who will be in the classroom, what time the day ends, and who will be there to pick her up each day. Try getting your kids back into a routine at least a week ahead of time. Kids need time to adjust to new morning and bedtime routines. Make a chart that outlines the few things they will need to do each day before leaving for school: wake up, have a healthy breakfast, get dressed, wash up, brush their teeth, and pack their backpacks. Kids like to know what to expect, and they thrive on routines.
5. Plan a short goodbye ritual. Before you drop your preschooler off on day one, plan out a ritual for saying goodbye so he knows what to expect. (The Kissing Hand mentioned above is a wonderful story that offers up a goodbye ritual I used every day with my boys when they were starting school. They loved it!) Children have a harder time with lingering goodbyes, so try to keep it personal, positive, and short. Be sure to also remind them that you (or your caregiver) will be there to pick them up every day.