Ive lost my toddler and not in a blink of an eye, kinda way. In a, it was wee woman first day at preschool today and she went in without a backward glance way. Which I know is really what you want but a wave would have been nice?
They really do grow up too fast, and I have said goodbye ( not made my peace mind you ) to my last baby. I was reminiscing that I have seen a fair few wee ones away to preschool/kindy over my time with kids. The eldest I just saw off to university ! But it is still a happy and sad transition for both parent and child. We will make our peace behind closed doors, but here is how I have found to make it great for little ones who are embarking in to the wide world.
Visiting , definitely go for a look see, a walk around, a noisy for both you and your child. Us parents want to see the lay out, meet the teachers etc , the kids want to see the toys period.
Ive found talking it up is good, a few days before you go on a visit , start to plant the seed. Big up the place, be excited so that they will be. This is a big deal for some kids to be off on the next adventure and it was be daunting and being left at the gate can be overwhelming. So talk about the process over and over. Let them ask questions. Reinforce that it will be fun, but mummy won't be there with them. Keep the dialogue open right up until you hand them over. Reassure reassure reassure.
Get equip - Some places want you to have special clothes, ie a uniform of some sorts or a smock to go over clothes. If nothing else , wear clothes that wash easy and you don't mind getting trashed . As there is painting and water play, play dough and glitter involved. Have a bag that is of your child's choosing so its familiar , inside a change of clothes, a coat or sun hat, weather dependent and maybe a family photo ( if feeling insecure, teachers can ask about whose in the photo, if situation needs a distraction , etc. Or a favourite toy for comfort ) Invest in a non washable ink name stamp or pen. Very helpful to keep track of personal items and will see you right through the next 12 years of paraphernalia that is required over the years .
Contacts , if you don't know anyone that starting at the same time , ask the school for a contacts list and see if any one is in your neighbourhood or was at any playgroups with you. A play date before the starting date is invaluable for seeing a friendly face on the first day and a start of life long friendship for both you ( think coffee after drop off ) and for them, years of a firm friendship.
Be early , on both drop off and pick up for the first few days/weeks. Then it's not rushed at the gate , door. Your wee one isn't feeling pressured in to being surrendered. They can get acclimatised that, yes they are going back, and gather themselves. Ive had ones who went in no fuss to begin with , but then lost their nerve in the coming weeks and needed to be coddled a bit to build up confidence. Its also great to see you at the gate when they come out. They may burst in to tears you are there , or be bubbling over with trying to tell you everything they did and cant wait to go back. Or be sad to actually leave the place !
Unpack the day after, talk about what they did that day. Did they play with any one new, something special? Are they excited to go back, who are their teachers ? Involving them in the process makes it feel like it's their place, their story.
Food, I always find a drink and snack is a good way to welcome them home, as they have played away hard and blood sugar needs to be maintained. Plus a favourite treat will reinforce and connect cognitively to a positive experience. Making the next time better if they were unsure. Get them to tell you ( within dietary reason ) what they would like waiting for them. A small detail like that can give them something to look forward to if they are having a bad day. Or a wobble once the novelty has worn off.
No matter what age your little ones heads off, it is still a big deal for everyone. I took heaps of photos of her in her uniform beaming from ear to ear and sent them to all the family and to her email that I have to record all of life events. This a big one. Im so proud of her, sad that no longer a baby ( she will always be my baby ) But happy it went off without a hitch. Now I'm not really sure what to do with my new found freedom. hmmmm.