Over the course of the next few months, nearly half of the Toddlers in our classroom will be making a foray into the wonderful world of the GMS Primary program. This transition brings with it a mixed bag of emotions for young children (not to mention their parents and teachers). Though the idea of becoming one of those big kids in the enchanting world on the other side of the playground fence can be very exciting, the thought of leaving behind beloved teachers and classmates and mastering the challenging materials in the Primary classroom can be very daunting for advancing toddlers. At times, well-meaning adults discuss this transition in ways that can actually heighten young children's apprehension. Here are a few things to consider as we prepare our little ones for a classroom transition:
* Avoid "overtalking" about the impending changes. For adults, having ample opportunity to ask questions and share our feelings about an upcoming transition can be a comfort. We may worry that our children won't know what to expect from their new classroom unless we initiate frequent discussions and provide ample detail. For young children, though, too much information can be overwhelming and confusing. Because they learn experientially, young children may not grasp the reality of how things will feel in their new classroom until they have physically visited the space, met the teachers, and absorbed the sights, sounds, and sensations first-hand. It's perfectly fine to mention the change - conveying that you are excited about it and confident in his or her readiness for the new classroom - but, for the most part, it's best to follow your child's lead. The most helpful discussions will be the ones your toddler initiates!
* Avoid tying new skills to Primary advancement. It can be tempting to entice children to practice new skills by pointing out how important they are for Primary kids. However, suggestions that toddlers learn to use the potty, dress themselves, or tackle other developmental tasks "so they can go to Primary" can sometimes backfire. Even children who seem excited about the prospect of "moving up" can harbor anxieties about the transition - and may not be so sure they really want to go. In fact, they may even delay the acquisition of self-care skills to avoid the prospect of being moved into a new and unfamiliar environment. It's wonderful to express the love and pride you feel when your child attains a new milestone, but keep the topic entirely separate from expectations that may be attached to his or her classroom placement.
* A few setbacks are perfectly normal. At times, parents are surprised to find that their "big kids" suddenly takes three steps back in behavior, separation anxiety, or even toileting before or during classroom transitions. Don't worry; this too shall pass. Translated from the toddler-ese, these setbacks are children's way of asking whether they will still get the nurturing and support they relished as infants and toddlers, even though they are heading into big kid territory. A little extra cuddling and reassurance will help your child get back to his or her independent ways in time.
* Rest assured, you are in for a treat! Call us biased, but we're not exaggerating when we say that the Primary faculty here at GMS is one of the most talented teams imaginable. You'll be astounded by the many ways your child will learn and grow during the Primary years - and by the dedication and expertise of his or her teachers. Watching children leave our classroom nest is the hardest part of teaching - but knowing they are going into such incredibly dedicated and capable hands makes things much easier. We can't wait to gaze at our "alumni" over the playground fence next year, and marvel at the ways they are spreading their wings!