Entering School

Ways to enter preschool:

I have realized over my many years of teaching that there are a few distinct patterns that parents tend to follow when dropping their child off at school in the morning.

Some parents come in with their child, say “good morning,” and then help them focus on the tasks at hand. “Find your name. Put your lunch away. Your coat goes in your cubby. Wash your hands.” Sometimes the child is already on to the next step and the parent says, “Go wash your hands.” “I already did” is either followed by “Hey great!” or “Let me smell them to make sure.”

Some parents let the child lead the way and stay close behind while the child does what is expected, then asks “What would you like to show me before I go?” These parents are tuned into the classroom and notice when there is a new puzzle, when Otto is missing from his bed, and when the seasonal table has changed. They may make a routine of checking the progress of the amaryllis that is shooting up daily and exclaim about its growth.


Some parents stay totally focused on their own child, playfully helping to find the name by not being able to read it themselves until their child comes up with it. They make a game out of putting things away and a strong, fun ritual of goodbye hugs and kisses.

Some parents come in distracted, on the cell phone, and in such a hurry that they barely have any interaction with the children. This may even happen occasionally to otherwise focused parents.

Or complaining--”We had a really rough morning. No one was listening and it was impossible to get them out of the house.” “Tell your teacher what you did this morning!”

Some parents follow their child’s lead and discover a routine that works each morning. First they put things away, then they look at special books together, then the parent tucks the child in under the loft or leaves them at the easel to paint.

Other parents take the opportunity to chat with the teachers about common interests “How about that basketball game last night?” or “Have you heard this song by Miles Davis? We were just listening to it in the car.”


Which is the “right way”? Aside from the totally distracted parent and the complainer, they all can work. Parents have personalities too! And they become apparent throughout the family’s stay at school.

For children who need help separating, the focus on the classroom can be very helpful. It makes the transition from focussing on “me and dad” to “me and the classroom”. Being truly interested in the classroom says to the child “Your school is important and I am interested in what you do here.”

Some children definitely need help staying focused on the process of entering “Remember to wash your hands.” By knowing their child and following his or her lead, parents will know whether they need to continue reminding or whether it is just a habit or a nag.

Same with the routine. Sometimes parents hold onto the routine far after the child is comfortable and able to enter without the elaborate ritual. You never know until you try. For some children it may last all school year.

The parent who is totally focused on his or her own child gives that child the gift of knowing that he or she is the most important person in the world to that parent at that moment. The only drawback is sometimes this backfires into the child not wanting the parent to leave, and then the tactic may need to change.

When parents engage teachers in conversation, it says to the child “I like your teacher. We are friends and have interesting things we can talk about.” This is another reason we do home visits at the beginning of the year. Once a child has seen us in their home, something changes, we become more real. It also gives us insight into the child in a whole new way when we can picture them at home, in their room, with their toys. Of course, the child will want to be included too.


Some Suggestions: You may recognize yourself in one of these styles. You may want to consider mixing it up and trying a new routine. Or if it is working for you and your child, stick with it!

When you are having a rough morning, take the time to write us a note. Or find a moment when your child is otherwise occupied to let a teacher know what is going on.

When you need to go, tell your child you are leaving and go. One year there was a mom who came in every morning saying I have to go now. Her daughter would do something charming, or find an activity that she really wanted to share with her mom. I am sure the child’s mom thought she was being helpful when she stayed a bit longer each time her child “needed” her. One morning I counted. 17 times she told her daughter she needed to leave. What she was teaching her child is that she didn’t really mean what she said.

Another example of mixed up communication happened many years back. A mom came to me very concerned after about a month of school. “My daughter says she never has any fun at school and just sits and cries and misses me.” This was a real surprise to us as teachers as the child was very engaged and seemed to be having fun. I encouraged her mom to leave and then circle back and peek into the window so she could see her child at play. That day the mom came back and said ”I saw you playing with your friends. You looked like you were having so much fun!” The little girl burst into tears “I am sorry mommy. I should be missing you.” The child had gotten the message that she was taking care of her mom by missing her and not having fun at preschool. It took some convincing to let the daughter know that her mom really did want her to have fun at school. And the mom needed to admit that she also liked going to work and wasn’t just pining away for their time together.

Enjoy your time with your child. And allow them to enjoy their time away as well.

If you are in a big hurry, don’t pretend you are not. Let the teacher and your child know and give a big hug and a kiss and Hurry out the door.