My husband and I both work full-time, and have a lovely 3.25-year-old girl that has been in the daily care of the same nanny since she was 4 months old. Our nanny is fantastic, and our social daughter has many regular (i.e. 3 – 5 times a week) playmates, does lots of arts and crafts, spends plenty of time outside, and participates in occasional weekly (hour-long) organized activities. If we could keep things as they are until kindergarten, we might. However, we are likely going to be moving to another state for our jobs, probably in about a year or 9 months’ time. I have asked, but our nanny does not want to move with us. 🙂
So, once we move, my daughter will need to be put into full-time preschool and will probably be close to 4 years old. My question is about whether we should get her ‘adapted’ to the idea of preschool before we move, while she is still in familiar surroundings. In other words, should we, for the next 6 – 9 months, put her into a half-day or 2- or 3-days a week (or 3 half days a week) daycare/preschool to get her used to the idea of more structured days, listening to the teacher, doing things as a group (rather than whatever she happens to want to do, which is what typically happens now, even at some of the ‘organized activities’ she attends)? Basically, I’m wondering if it will help her to get used to preschool in the context of her currently stable life (even if then we have to uproot her to a new situation/teacher/school when we move) or whether we should just wait and let her have her entire world change all at once? Also, any general advice on helping a 4-yr-old adapt to having her entire life completely uprooted (she *loves* some of her friends so much!) when the time comes would be much appreciated!
Short-term preschool or wait?
Definitely try a part-time program now
If you have the means and the flexibility to put her in a more structured, part-time program ahead of the move, I would definitely go for it. Going from her current arrangement to a full-time school setting would already be a lot to ask of her, but throwing it at her in the midst of all the other major life upheaval that comes with a move? That just seems like a recipe for separation anxiety, nerves, acting out, and who knows what else.
So yes, I think a half-day program a few days a week, would be an excellent way to prep her for the shift to a full-time program and all the expectations that come with it. (And maybe bump up her enrollment after a couple months, if it seems to be going well.) Because you’re right: There’s a BIG difference between the preschool environment and the one-on-one care of a nanny and casual playdates. And that’s not a bad thing — your daughter sounds happy and very social and will more than likely thrive wherever she is, and it’s not like a half-day program for three year olds is gonna be like, super rigorous and giving out standardized tests on finger painting. But given All The Other Things that she’ll be coping with post-move, it might help if the concept of “school” is more of a constant or extension of her “before” rather than another brand new thing you’re throwing at her.
My personal experience with a similar sitaution
Personal anecdote tangent time: We also moved when our youngest was four years old. He was the only one of our children whom we “eased” into preschool at two years old — just a couple hours three mornings a week, then the rest of the time he was home with me and/or our part-time nanny. At three, he moved to a full-time program. So by the time we moved, preschool and a day full of structured activities/meals/snacks/potty times/etc. were things he was pretty used to. He needed time to learn the specific rules and expectations of his new school (and make new friends and all that), but I was grateful the days of him sobbing hysterically at the drop-off were fully behind us. So yeah, thumbs up on the concept of easing her into school as gently as possible ahead of time.
As for other moving-with-a-preschooler general advice?
Take lots and lots of photos of your house, her friends, her favorite places, and then your new house and neighborhood if you can. We put everything in a little book from Twigtale (here’s the moving template) (and one for starting school) (and oh look here’s one I wrote too because shameless plug!) and read it to him regularly in the weeks before we moved. It helped explain what was going to happen, alleviated some of his specific fears, and also gave him a chance to get used to saying goodbye to everything we were leaving behind. Once we moved, the book remained a big source of comfort because he could go back and look at the photos anytime he missed something or someone.
All this said, kids ARE highly, highly adaptable. More than we tend to give them credit for. If you had zero choice but to go from your current childcare arrangement to a full-time daycare program tomorrow, she’d absolutely survive and be fine. But if you CAN ease her in, why not? Definitely won’t hurt, and will more than likely help.
Photo source: Depositphotos/lunamarina