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Playschool and the layer of protection

The decision to have a child is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body…

I experienced this feeling for the first time when my son joined playschool after he turned two. He had been separated from me before that but not left totally with strangers. Like every other parent, I had stronger feelings than him about his first day of school.  I was anxious and nervous but kept an excited demeanour since nerves are highly contagious. I kept my tone upbeat highlighting the fun stuff that will happen in school and how he will make new friends. I had done my part and prepared him for his first day of school. He did not understand it fully but knew he will be going outside the house and get to “play” – so he was looking forward to it.

I dressed him up in cute outfit picked from his brand new wardrobe especially for school. My husband too came along to drop him on his first day. We got good luck messages from the whole family. It was an exciting new phase. True to our nature, we reached the school early and realized there are many other parents like us. All of us had similar feelings coursing inside us. We exchanged reassuring glances and smiled at each other. In the first two days we were allowed to be with our children. So we accompanied them everywhere. The reason was that when the kids know that parents are within clinging distance they get the courage to explore new digs. Then, as the child feels more secure, gradually parents move away.

I had done a thorough research on selecting the best pre-school for my son. I visited many schools and first and foremost wanted a safe and hygienic environment for him. I found out that the best preschools have daily schedules that include plenty of time for physical activity, quiet time (including regular story time), group programs, socializing, crafts, individual activities, meals, snacks, and free time. A well-designed curriculum stimulates child’s development and makes daily life more fun.  In a play school they will explore, learn, innovate and create – all in a fun way. Play schools are not designed for a rigorous academic program but focus more on the development of life skills – social and behavioral, and rightly so. I was sold on this ideology and started scrutinizing schools with this lens.

I wanted the important factors in the play school to be of my choice – vicinity, hygiene, safety, facilities, reputation and a good student teacher ratio. I wanted him to be free to explore the outside world but in a safe and protected way. Another important factor I wanted was plenty of outdoor or open space since kids have a lot of energy at this age and need to get physically exhausted. I wanted a friendly and approachable environment where teachers are from a similar background as us and doing this for their passion for teaching or love for children.

In the play school we finally chose for our son, we were lucky to get what we wanted. The teachers knew that every child is different and they needed to deal with them differently. They took time to explain to the kids the reasons for asking them to do or not do something. They asked the kids to address them not as Ma’am or aunty but “masis” so the kids feel that they are at a home away from home. They took care of the children in the same loving manner as a mother does at home. This was re-assuring and comforting for any new parent leaving their child in a new environment.

Admitting our kids to a playschool also gave us an opportunity to interact with other parents who were in the same boat. We got a forum to vent out our apprehensions and were comforted by the similarity. Until now we had been protecting our children in a safe home environment. But as they joined school we were worried about their safety and protection in the environment outside. We were lucky to have found long lasting friends as a result. It is indeed valuable to have allies who are going through the same process as you.

As months passed, I was exposed to a new aspect. One by one, all kids in my sons class started falling sick. It had to do with changing weather. With so many allergens in the air one kid gets affected and passes it on to others. Due to the protective environment at home, my son was one of the last ones to catch the flu. The school had a strict policy of not letting kids come to school if they are unwell and I totally appreciated that. For in turn they would catch it from each other if we sent them back before full recovery, and with low immunity, it may relapse further. While some exposure will happen when they play outdoors or visit the park etc. we can avoid the rest by watching out for any signs. With changing seasons it may be a good idea to use boiled water for out little ones, home cooked fresh food. I found honey very handy when he had a cough. If I gave it soon enough I could altogether avoid giving him cough syrup. Other measure for good hygiene while important always, gain more need at times like these with generous use of antiseptics, sanitizers etc.

The changing season also heralds Holi, My son, like many other children, is fascinated by this festival of colours. I was a little apprehensive about his first holi after he joined playschool since he insisted on mixing colours, applying it on himself and others and spraying coloured water around. We carefully chose organic colours to avoid contamination. We also made it a game with him to apply oil over his exposed body parts so that the colours come off easily. We had cut his nails short to prevent colours sticking there. We had also put a little bit of Dettol in the water he used to act as a natural antiseptic. Once he had his fill of playing, we hosed him down with water and a moisturizing soap which in itself was another playful game for him. He really does enjoy Holi and it has become an annual tradition for him.

With a little bit of care, we can create a conducive environment for our children and rest assured that whether they are indoors or outdoors, a layer of protection always surrounds them. After all, it is important to take good care of our heart walking outside our body.

This article was first published on Momspresso (erstwhile mycity4kids) sponsored by Dettol.

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