5 Tips to Prepare Kids for the First Day of Preschool

Are you getting ready to send your child off to daycare or pre-school for the first time? Sometimes this change can be just as nerve-wracking for parents as it is for children. Here are 5 easy tips to help you get your little one off to a good start!

1. Do not bring your child with you as you check out your school options.

Going to school for the first time is a big change for your child. Avoid taking them with you as you pursue the sea of choices at your disposal.

Visiting that many new schools can be overwhelming for your child and might confuse them. If possible, make your final decision before introducing your child to the school. When your only remaining question is, “How will my child like it?” – you are ready to bring your child in for a tour of the school and classroom.

2. Introduce the concept of school to your child.

Young children may not have a clear concept of what “school” or “daycare” means. Explain to your child in simple terms the concept of school. Discuss with your child what their day at school will entail. Most daycares and pre-schools have copies of their daily schedule, so you can prepare your child for exactly what their new routine will be. Storytelling is a great way to discuss change with your child. A simple story might go something like this, “There once was a girl named (insert your child’s name). She grew bigger and bigger until she was ready for school.

She met lots of fun friends at school. She did art and played outside. She ate lunch and took a nap at school. After nap her mommy came to pick her up. What a fun day!” Outlining exactly what your child’s day will look like, will help them adapt more quickly to their new schedule. They might want you to repeat their story over and over.

Young children learn and cope with change through repetition.

3. Bring your child for a visit before their first day of school.

Young children need time to acclimate to changes in their lives. Give your child time to process this change. Ask the school if you can visit the classroom for a few hours with your child. Most schools will not have a problem with this request. After you have prepared your child for the concept of school, tell them that they are going to be able to visit their classroom. Be sure to tell them that this is a special day where you both get to go together. Let them know that when they start school all the mommies and daddies say good-bye to their children and pick them up at the end of their day. When your child is observing their new classroom encourage them to actively participate while you sit to the side, allowing them to integrate into the classroom setting. Ask the teacher to show your child where they will put their lunch and other items when they start their day. Do not be discouraged if they do not like school or if they tell you they do not want to go. Change is scary for young children and the idea of being separated may be an overwhelming thought for them.

4. When they start school, let them bring a comfort object from home.

Ask the daycare or pre-school if your child is allowed to bring their blanket or stuffed animal to school. Most schools allow children to place these comfort objects in their cubby or bin designated for your child. Your child probably won’t be allowed to carry their blanket/stuffed animal around with them. Explain to your child that they can bring their blanket, but they will not be allowed to carry it around because it can get lost or dirty. Before they go to school you can hug their blanket and let them know that your love is on their blanket for the whole day.

Tell them that if they are sad, they can go to their blanket and give it a hug.

5. Expect some growing pains!

It is important to have realistic expectations for this transition. Some children will have a hard time initially adjusting. It is common for children to cry when they are being dropped off. Do not linger, hover or hesitate after saying good-bye to your child. They will sense your trepidation and it will exacerbate the issue. You want to convey a sense of calm, even if you have to fake it! Young children often gauge their emotions based on their parent’s emotions. Let your child know that you will be back to pick them up when school is over. If you know what activity ends the day – tell them you will be back when that activity is over. Most children will  have some bumps throughout this process.  Time and consistency will eventually help your child get into their new routine.


Natasha Daniels, LCSW is a child therapist with a private practice in Chandler, Arizona. She writes about childhood anxiety and has a blog Anxioustoddlers.com. Her book How to Parent an Anxious Toddler is coming out in September 2015. You can follow her through facebook at www.facebook.com/anxioustoddlers.

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