Before preschool starts, our program offers a Meet and Greet, a time when the parents and children can meet the teachers and a few of the students who will be in their class. One child came to Meet and Greet with a pacifier in her mouth. At three years old, that is very unusual. We spoke with her mother about it, and her mother said that her daughter, Sasha, needed her “paci” or she’d cry. That was the only way she could keep her happy. We explained that our first task would be to wean her off the pacifier. She certainly could not participate in class with something in her mouth. Once a child is old enough to come to school by herself, she is too old to use a pacifier.
I explained to Sasha that she would need to put her paci into her backpack as soon as she got to school. It would stay very safe in there, and she was welcome to go check on it anytime she wanted. I also gave her a small stuffed bear and told her that she could hold the bear during circle time if she was willing to keep her paci in her backpack. After circle time, Sasha became so involved in playing and doing our projects, that she hardly noticed that she no longer had a security blanket. At first, she’d check on her paci once or twice during the day, but she soon forgot all about it.
I noticed that the first thing her mother would do after dismissal was give Sasha her paci again. We talked about it, and I suggested ways for her to wean her daughter from it at home, also, because she had responded so beautifully in school. First, they could have a conversation about the fact that Sasha was now a big girl, and pacifiers were for babies. They could come up with one time each day, maybe nap or bed time, when she would be allowed to use the pacifier. Other than that, it had to stay in a special place in Sasha’s room.
If Sasha became anxious and wanted the pacifier, her mother could engage her in a project. For example, if they sang the alphabet song, her mother could point out that it’s impossible to sing with something in her daughter’s mouth. Once Sasha became involved in singing, she would likely forget about needing the pacifier.
I recommend that parents wean their children from pacifiers as soon as they possibly can, and certainly, by the time they enter school.