Even the most welcoming preschool classroom can seem like a big and bright box of confusion to three-year-olds on the first day of school. Weeks of anticipation lead to the moment youngsters finally arrive. Teachers can ease worries and begin to establish routine the minute little feet pass the door frame. Use simple activities to let children know that this year's promise is fun in the joy of learning.
The Name Game
Show the youngsters how to sit in a circle on a carpeted area designated for circle time. Each child should cross his legs, and teachers should check that children seated nearby are not crowded. Hold a ball and introduce the name game. The person with the ball states her name. The rest of the class says hello and repeats her name. The ball holder rolls it to a classmate who then states his name. Everyone says hello and repeats his name. Continue this until everyone has had a turn. Variations like stating favorite colors or animals before rolling the ball are interesting to children and help them get to know one another.
Take a Walk Around the School
Lead the class in an exploration of the whole preschool. Bring a camera and take pictures of the children as they stop at each interesting spot. Explain rules and features of every area. Snap photos of some of the staff members that three-year-olds will encounter at the school. Try to get every child in a shot. Questions and comments will naturally come from the children. Jot some of these down. Be sure to take pictures in the classroom as well. Later, make a book with pictures and captions containing names of students and staff. Label pictures of different places in and around the school. Add some text to include memorable comments from the children. Read this classroom book often.
Decorate a Take-Home Folder
Paperwork gets lost floating in a cluttered backpack. Teach good organizational habits with a folder-decoration art activity on the first day of school. Pile an assortment of brightly colored two-pocket folders on a table, and let the children pick one to decorate. Write each child's first name with a permanent marker on the front of the folder. Provide markers and crayons on another table so children can personalize the folder with pictures of families, pets and other favorites. Stickers work well to adorn these take home folders. Three-year-old children love to peel stickers and place them on the folders.
The highlight of preschool art time is painting. Children crave time spent dipping a brush into paint and swirling it on a large sheet of paper. The opportunity to paint as a first day activity confirms to youngsters that the preschool year will live up to expectations. Easel painting is especially popular, but if easels are not available, table painting holds equal charm. Three-year-olds paint with flourish, so provide smocks to cover clothing. Pour paint into cups, or just dollop two or three colors on a paper plate as a palate. Cover tables with newspaper or a reusable tablecloth.