Off to school.

For a preschooler, the daily schedule at school can determine whether the day goes well. The morning routine sets the tone and the afternoon routine is what the children take home with them. Transitions are not always easy for children. A preschooler is still learning to adapt to a more structured environment than home or day care. They still have issues with parent withdrawal, using the toilet and making friends. A preschooler's day and those of his caregivers will be smoother if certain points are highlighted. This is especially so at the open and close of the school day to ensure that transition goes well.

Avoiding Morning Meltdowns

Children get started in the morning with free play.

For children who are still coping with leaving parents, arrival at school can be painful and can affect the day if not dealt with properly. If a child becomes upset, it is best for the parent to leave as quickly as possible to keep the situation from getting worse. Once the parent is gone, moving into activities is best to calm a child and create the setting needed to get the day started. If a child is needing extra comfort, a teacher should be available to give him a hug or keep him close until he is able to join everyone else. Free play is best in the morning, because it gives students the opportunity to really wake up and get their creative juices flowing. Self-initiated play allows students to get going at their own pace before moving into more structured activities. Children can play together or alone at centers where they can use manipulatives such as Legos or dough, play dress-up or pretend to cook with plastic cookware.


Food sometimes makes everything better and breakfast time at school gives each hungry child the opportunity to get acclimatized. Meals at school should allow students time to eat without rushing or just to get alert if they are still struggling. After breakfast, it's bathroom time for everyone, which also signals the next transition. Whenever it is time to move from one activity to another, consistently announce these points so children are able to recognize when it is time to stop in order to start something new. Playing a certain song, or ringing a bell are methods that work for this purpose.

Winding Down

It will take time for children to calm down and prepare themselves to leave. Start early with closing activities so they have ample time to listen and get cleaned up before parents arrive. Once all take-home items are gathered, the teacher can direct questions to children about the activities of the day and give them an opportunity to talk about what they liked most. With the time left, have children play in a self-directed, quiet way that doesn't require much cleanup. Playing with blocks, reading books or playing with puzzles fills that bill.

End of Day

Having samples of the child's work available for parents to see upon pickup is one way to initiate conversation with parents when children are leaving and to get the student talking about her day. These can be put up for display or kept in individual folders for a parent to check daily. For the child who doesn't want to leave school or is upset because she is waiting for mom, taking a moment to look over and talk about the the day's activities can be exactly what the preschooler needs to divert her attention to positive aspects of her day.