Warren Hayden: Time for dad to go back to pre-school

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Idon’t have many memories of my time at pre-school. I’m told by my parents that, like many children, I cried on my first day as I walked into this room where there were grown-ups I didn’t know and other children who, I didn’t realise at the time, would become life-long friends.

Once I’d got over my initial anxiety, I do remember pre-school being fun and enjoying my first taste of the school environment.

Well, last week I returned to pre-school to re-live it all over again.

Not the place I’d spent a few hours each day when I was four – this time it was the place where my youngest daughter Alyssa spends a few hours each day.

As I’ve written before, sometimes it can be difficult to extract from my children’s minds what they’ve been up to while in the care of someone else, so this was a great opportunity for me to witness for myself what my daughter does in between being dropped off at pre-school and picked up again.

I was very grateful to the pre-school for offering this experience.

In I went to the world of building blocks, sand pits, tiny chairs and colourful paintings on every wall.

After being introduced to the children, who wondered who the strange man was, it was time for some play.

Alyssa guided me over to a table that was too small for my legs to fit under and a chair that put my knees level with my head when I perched on it. I wasn’t in the most comfortable position, but I ploughed on and did some colouring with Alyssa.

While I was in this early years’ environment, one thing I realised was that I now know how to speak to children.

Some people find it easy and natural to sit with a child and engage in conversation, but before I had my own children, I would always find it slightly awkward talking to them.

It was almost like I was trying to have a conversation with an alien from a different planet.

Now it’s fascinating to have a chat with a child and see their minds working at 100mph to try to convert what they are thinking into words.

A child’s imagination is a wonderful thing.

Being at the pre-school also made me realise that you really need to like children to be able to look after them day in and day out.

I witnessed how the staff at Alyssa’s pre-school genuinely like and care for the children they look after. They are fantastic with them.

She’ll be leaving next week, but I hope that she remembers her time at pre-school.

I’ll certainly remember my time there.

It was just three hours, but it was three hours I’ll never forget.