During the spring, children begin to notice a succession of changes in their environment. Plants that they may have thought were dead suddenly spring to life. Cold days gradually turn warmer, and with the change in weather comes a new wardrobe. Clothes that may have fit in the fall have become tight and short in the arms and legs. Animals that have disappeared for a long time, such as many types of birds, reappear, and insects begin to buzz again. For many preschool children, the changes in the environment foretell changes that will soon be happening in their lives, since many will be leaving preschool to attend kindergarten in the fall. While this may seem far in the future to adults, young children are not able to gauge time in the same way. As they register for kindergarten and say their good-byes to preschool, some children become fearful and stressed. Since they cannot put their feelings into words, their anxiety may emerge masked as unexpected tears, temper outbursts, and regression in maturity of behavior. Teachers can help by recognizing the signs and addressing issues of change in the curriculum.
- Focus on change in the classroom. Help children notice and describe changes in their environment. Incorporate seasonal changes in all areas of the classroom.
- Explore changes in the animal world. This is the time of year when many children become interested in bird nests. They may see birds building nests outside. A science display of bird nests encourages children to carefully observe the materials birds use to make their nests.
- Help the children observe changes in trees. If there is a tree on your playground or near your school, visit it regularly with the children. Encourage them to observe changes in the tree. Children may notice the growth of blossoms or leaves. Help them record their observations through writing or dictation, photographs, or art work.
- Focus on plant growth. Rather than just planting one seed per child, consider letting each child plant several types of seeds. Children can make predictions and then observe their plants to see if their predictions were accurate. For example, some children may predict that big seeds make big plants, or that lemon seeds grow into lemons!
- Consider adding a class pet to the room. Chickens, ducks, and gerbils all grow rapidly and encourage children to think and talk about growth and change.
- Talk with parents to find out whether their child will be going to kindergarten in the fall or returning to the same preschool. Help parents understand the stress and worry that major changes can cause children, and how they as parents can help.
- Add some books about kindergarten to the classroom. Reading about a new situation helps reduce children's fears and gives them an opportunity to talk about their concerns.
- Invite former students who are now in kindergarten to visit the class. They can interact with the preschoolers and talk about what kindergarten is like.
- Consider taking a field trip to a kindergarten class. Some schools and teachers may be happy to allow visitors. Children can also see the playground and lunchroom.
- Share books with the class that focus on transitioning to kindergarten and the feelings that children may have. An excellent example is Island Baby, by Holly Keller.