How to prepare toddlers for preschool interviews

Given the dwindling sizes of modern families, extra efforts need to be made by way of play-dates, having pets at home, so that the toddler adopts concepts such as sharing and accommodation as a way of life.

By Kartik Bajoria

We live in an era where there are too many students vying for a finite number of seats at ‘good’ schools. This has necessitated some kind of evaluation process from as early as pre-school where, in most cases, there is an interview that takes place in order to select worthy candidates into a pre-school programme. While one may have personal reservations about this process and the very need and merits of it, it is the reality of the times we live in.

So what then, as parents and guardians, can we do in order to prepare our toddlers for this very first interview of their lives — the pre-school interview? While it is almost impossible to accurately gauge the exact requirements of each pre-school and ascertain what the school is seeking in potential students, one can make a reasonably informed and educated list of attributes that most of them would look for. Let us look at some of these vital aspects and how to inculcate and encourage them.

Basic etiquette

Basic etiquette is a fairly standard requirement. No school willingly wants preschoolers that are rude and insolent. Of course, no one is expecting these little kids, whose understanding as well as emotional self-control are limited, to be polished like finishing school products. Having said that, elementary politeness will be sought. Thank you, sorry, please — words and phrases that manifest a basic concept of gratitude, self-awareness and basic protocol and propriety will go down very well during any interview.

If a child is seen to possess these concepts and it manifests in the usage of these words, it is a big plus. As parents, we must therefore try and encourage these attributes at home. The only caveat here is that kids almost never learn through instruction or reprimand, so try and have your toddlers imbibe these good manners through a natural process of osmosis, leading by example and behaving the way you would like them to, yourself.

Sharing and accommodating

What any school will also want in its new inductees is for them to be sociable, affable, well-meaning kids. Nobody wants a toddler who comes across as selfish, is not able to share food, toys, books, and wants everything to himself/herself. The ability to mix with a group, be a team player, and get along are necessary qualities for a child to have, to be noticed and impress in an interview. Once again, these are intrinsic values that can be developed on the home-front but they require work.

As parents, we need to socialise our children so that they are used to the idea of spending time with other kids and naturally assimilate qualities such as sharing, through an organic process of experiential learning. A joint family is a great starting point for this. Of course, given the dwindling sizes of modern families, extra efforts need to be made by way of play-dates, having pets at home, so that the toddler adopts concepts such as sharing and accommodation as a way of life.

Encourage interests

Lastly, I would think that pre-school interviewers are looking for kids who demonstrate a certain enthusiasm for, if not many, at least a few specific interests or activities. This makes the school spot the potential of a child who will later develop into a confident individual with unique interests. This too can be easily nurtured at home by parents exposing toddlers to various pursuits such as reading, building things, eating on their own – activities that will make them self-reliant as well as steer them to evolve their own unique personalities. Positive reinforcement, encouragement, be it in terms of painting, dancing, whatever the toddler naturally gravitates towards, will ensure that your child displays these interests naturally during the interview, and is commended for it.

A polite, communicative, accommodating and self-assured child is what pre-school interviews seem to seek. And to prepare for this, if one simply follows the tenets of good parenting, both you and your toddler will be just fine.

(Writer, educator and moderator, Kartik Bajoria holds workshops on creative writing and personality development at various schools. Views are personal.)

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