A Parent's Guide to Preparing Your Child for Preschool

by Guest Author Sam Casteris

The first day at preschool is a big milestone for kids—and for parents. This can be a stressful and challenging time for everyone involved, but luckily, there are several ways parents can ease the transition and prepare children for their first days at school. 

Here are some ideas and activities to help your child feel prepared to learn in a group setting, follow directions, socialize with other kids, and feel comfortable at school:  

Teacher Mireille recommends these books that can help ease transitions young children face: Preschool Time by Mij Kelly and Mary McQuillan and The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn. If your child has a difficult time separating from a parent, another good book to read with your child is Ilama Ilama Misses Mama by Anna Dewdney. All of these books are available to be checked out from the Little Wonders library.

Use books. Hands down, one of the most important ways you can prepare a child for school is by reading to them, every single day. Make sure you have books in the home (ideally in every room!) and in your car and make an effort to read as much as possible. Visit the library regularly and encourage your child to pick out some books that catch their eye. Children who don’t have early experiences with reading often have difficulty learning to read later, so reading is one of the most important, powerful ways a child can prepare for the first day of preschool—and for life.

Help your child socialize. All preschool kiddos have to get along with other children. If your child hasn’t spent much time around other kids, it can be supremely helpful to organize more social activities and playdates before they head off to school. Social activities help kids learn how to take turns, play together, share, and negotiate their boundaries, which are all crucial life lessons.  It may also be helpful to plan on walking into the first day of school with other children that your child has played with before. 

Teacher Suzanne recommends starting the preschool morning routine three weeks before school begins. For example if you must be out of the house by 8:30 M, W, F then wake, dress, eat and leave by 8:30 on those days for 3 weeks prior to the start of school. That makes the transition from the summer schedule to the fall schedule less traumatic.

Establish a routine. If you haven’t done so already, be sure to establish and follow a set routine with your child—having a daily schedule is one of the best ways to ease them into the structure of a preschool setting. Start to adjust your child’s eating and sleeping schedule accordingly in the weeks leading up to school; this is one of the best ways to get them ready.

Allow them some independence. Children who can take care of themselves and their personal needs tend to do fare better during the first days of preschool than those who can’t. Support your child to take care of their bathroom needs, to select and put on their own clothing, and to help out around the home—whether that’s picking up their toys, doing kitchen chores, or other self-sufficient tasks.  Practicing these tasks through play is a great way to get started. 

Create art. Whether it’s finger painting, molding clay, or coloring, creating art can help a budding preschooler cultivate their visual and fine motor skills. They’ll be doing a lot of this in school, so it’s helpful to start early and help children develop their artistic side.

Teacher Suzanne suggests to take pictures of the different areas of the preschool and the teacher so you can talk with your soon-to-be preschooler about where they want to play, what they want to do in that area, what do they want to say to the teacher, etc. This helps children start thinking about school so the transition is easier.

Go for a visit. If you can, visiting the school ahead of time can be a wonderful way to introduce preschool to your kid. Find out if your preschool has an orientation or a visiting day for new families and make it a point to meet with the teacher, ask questions, and help make your child feel comfortable before the first day. In addition, you’ll also want to leave plenty of time on the first day to arrive at school and likely spend some time in the classroom.

Of course, it’s important to remember not to over prepare. If you begin building up preschool too far ahead of time, this can be overwhelming for a child. Rather, it’s about making small changes over time, so that your little one doesn’t feel like it’s a huge, looming event. Make the above changes in a casual way—by introducing books, a routine, and more socialization and independence—and prepare to watch your child flourish at school.

Sam Casteris is a freelance writer interested in travel, lifestyle, and resource-writing. She helps people find the information they need online. You can find more of her work at Content by Casteris

Teacher Mireille reminds us to be observant and listen to our children to understand what they may be feeling and not sharing. It is very normal for children to have anxieties and parents should not minimize their emotions but rather try to acknowledge, understand and offer support. It can be very helpful for a parent to share a time when s/he felt anxious and how s/he faced it.