Terrific Transitions at Preschool Arrival and Departure

Arrival and departure are two inevitable parts of the preschool day.  The preschoolers will come, and eventually, they will leave.  Just because these are absolutes, doesn’t mean they don’t require some planning.  The children’s arrival will set the tone for their entire day, and their departure will indelibly shade the way they remember their day.  Take some time to think through your specific arrival and departure procedures, and to communicate those policies clearly to your parents.  It is much easier to think through the scenarios and prepare ahead of time than to go into crisis management mode later.  Here are some things to consider.

  • Think about the traffic flow.  Are parents parking and walking in or doing a circular drop off?  Be specific about where to enter and exit your parking lot and where it’s OK and not OK to park.
  • Where should the parents and children enter or exit your building?  What if someone is late (for arrival or departure)?  Is there a different door or procedure to use? 
  • What is the transition activity?  You won’t have everyone magically appear at the same time to start your morning meeting, and they won’t all leave as soon as your last activity is over.  Think of activities that they can do as they arrive at different times and as they wait to depart.  For my arrival/departure transition times, I like to have children go right into learning centers as they come in.   At the end of the day, I schedule in about 5-10 minutes of “buffer time” to allow the children to finish their last projects, and then choose between coloring, doing puzzles, or browsing books before parents start arriving. 
  • Some programs have a Greeting Hall or Transition Hall.  Teachers pick up the children from the cars at the beginning of the day and bring them to the hall where they wait (singing songs or reading stories) until enough children arrive to walk to the classroom.  At the end of the day, the children wait in the hall until their parents pull up to the door and the teachers buckle them in.  The parents never have to leave the car, which keeps the process moving smoothly.
  • When parents walk children to the classroom, be sure they deliver the child to a teacher, instead of  just dropping them off.  I’ve seen children dropped off at school, only to find that their class was somewhere else (the library or outside time).  It seems like a small thing to an adult,but to small children it seems like they have been abandoned, and are totally lost.  I’ve also known children to head for the classroom, then turn to follow their parent,who is unaware that the child has changed course.  These situations can all be avoided by walking the child to the teacher.  This process makes the children feel safer, because they are safer!  When the child is brought to the teacher, it also gives the teacher the opportunity to really greet each child as they enter, building their relationship.
  • What happens when the child is picked up by another adult, outside of the usual routine?  Make sure that parents know ahead of time what your policy is.  You never know what kind of family or custodial issues may be going on.  Even if someone shows up for Jenny, and she does indeed call him “Uncle Josh”, he may not be someone Mom and Dad want picking her up.

Think through your arrival and departure situation.  Formulate a specific, routine plan and share it with your parents.  Have them extend that into their own individual plans with their children.  They could have a special saying or kiss-hug-high five routine as they separate.  They may even want to role-play with their children at home.  Having smooth, thoughtful, consistent transitions can make or break your day!

For more things to consider during back to school, click here!

Photo courtesy Skadie.



Leave a Reply