Tuesdays and Thursdays! Those are the days my middle child goes to preschool – well is supposed to go to preschool. In that 2-hour time frame, I have a small break for myself. I take the baby, sleeping happily in the carrier, for a short walk to the coffee shop. Now that my oldest is in kindergarten, my days are filled with pick ups and drop offs. My other two children just get toted around (happy or not).

My first daughter could not wait for preschool to start. The prospect of new friends motivated her to get out the door and to school on time! Thankfully, that has transferred to kindergarten. But for my second child that has been far from the case. She is a December baby, so starting preschool at 2.5 vs. many 3 or even 3.5-year olds has proven to be hard. Now it’s only two hours twice a week, but even still enticing her out the door is mentally and physically exhausting on me not her. September started off great. October went downhill. I know it’s not the preschool itself. When she does go, she has a blast and every pick up is big smiles and hugs.

After an attempt at tricking her into going to school, when I went to leave the good-bye portion was a full-blown melt down; thankfully the teachers said she was great after I left! After that, I knew I needed to rethink how I was going to approach this. She has been very attached to me from day one, and is very particular about who she likes and wants to be around. So, I decided I needed a plan of attack. I read what I could. I also spoke with my mother-in-law, who was a teacher for 35 years with a specialty in special education, and her wife who is a special education assistant. Both gave me some great ideas on how to approach the issue.

I decided each preschool day I would get her ready like we were going and not change the routine. If she refused at the time we had to leave then I would try again 5 minutes later. If that didn’t work, then we just didn’t go. This went on for three weeks. During the time she would have been at preschool, I made sure there were no “fun” activities (electronic devices etc.) and minimal interaction with mummy. She would play on her own and I would help her when she needed me. During those 2 hours, she seemed very content and no issues.

I tried a number of new techniques during this time. I was given an idea to make activity cards; but I purchased them as it was significantly faster. These cards let your child know what the plan of the day is or what a portion of the day looks like. I used these from Amazon.

They have Velcro images that you place in order of occurrence. So, when you wake up in the morning the child knows: okay I need to go to the washroom, eat breakfast, get ready and out the door for school. OR after lunch, we are going to the library and then to the grocery store etc. You get the idea. This is very helpful for children who have a different schedule every day (nanny or daycare on Monday, preschool Tuesday, grandma Wednesday etc.). This can be hard for children to wrap their minds around the day, causing a feeling of the ‘unknown’. I had my 5-year- old and 2-year- old help me put the activities on the cards so everyone knew what our plans were for the day ahead. They both liked it, especially my 2-year-old who enjoyed picking out the activities to go on the card, so she had a say in where and what she wanted to go. I have to say this did help take the guessing out of the day.

The other idea I was given was just to relax. I know sounds easy. Some kids just need a break from activities and routine, and play at home letting their imagination take over. This was a lot harder than it sounds for me. I am currently at home since my youngest is only 5 months old, so I was able to have my daughter not go to preschool and it didn’t disrupt anything; but I wanted to make sure I wasn’t ‘giving up’ on preschool. After the first week, I quickly realized that going back when she was ready was okay and it didn’t really matter educationally or socially. I worked hard at not caring when she said no and hid her face in the chair. I used the time to tell myself we will try again next class and to be positive.

When dealing with toddlers we need to remember they are young and do not understand their emotions fully. When they do make a decision, it can change in a whim! I know that if you are back at work and your toddler just won’t go to preschool or daycare it can be very difficult since you must go to work. You do not want to use up sick days when no one is actually sick (since those are precious).

When you come up against a toddler who just won’t go, try these few suggestions or just keep trying until something clicks!

  1. Make sure your child is okay when they are at preschool/daycare, and happy upon pick up etc. Making sure the actual facility is not the problem is step one.
  2. Work with your child to understand the routine and eliminate any surprises.
  3. Relax and stay positive. The best thing a parent can do is try new techniques. EVERY CHILD IS DIFFERENT. One technique may work for one child and not another.
  4. If all else fails remember this too shall pass! Ha ha, that’s what I tell myself!