For some preschoolers, their first experience of school is a religious education setting. In any class of young children, some will enter the classroom enthusiastically, some will be nonchalant and others will hold back. All need to be welcomed when the new year begins.

Putting a little time now into planning for this welcome will save you from dealing with last minute details. This will free you up to enjoy meeting the children, and be relaxed enough to truly welcome them. Here are few ideas to consider for the upcoming first class:

Letters of welcome: While e-mail and text messaging are common, young children still love to get mail addressed to them in the post mail. A letter to welcome them before the school year begins will make the first day of class something to look forward to.

If possible, obtain an address list of the children who will be in your class this fall. Write a letter on colorful stationery, telling them your name, that you look forward to meeting them, and hint at two or three activities they will do in class.

Then tell them that they are children of God. God loves them very much! Ask that they would draw a self-portrait, with an adult write the words, “(name), a Child of God” on the drawing. Request that they bring these self-portraits on the first day of class. Mail the letters so they arrive just a day or two before the first class date.

On that first day, have paper and crayons ready for children who don’t bring in a self-portrait. Have a place where children can display their self-portraits, so they may feel part of the class right away.

Hide and Seek Name Tags: Make name tags for each child. “Hide” them around the classroom in places children will easily find. On the first day, invite the children and their parents into the room to find the correct name tags. This will help shy children become familiar with the room while still with their parents.

Host a Birthday Party: Most children are familiar with birthday parties. Host one on the first day which communicates to children and their families that this class is a fun place, but one with a specific spiritual focus: celebrate the birthday of Mary, Jesus’ mother. The actual feast day is September 8th, so the beginning of the school year is a good time for this party. Have a Mary statue on a table, along with fresh flowers. A ‘happy birthday’ balloon or banner will add a festive feeling. Talk about Mary, sing the birthday song to her, and enjoy a simple treat. If possible, give each child a holy card or other image of Mary.

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