The First Day of Preschool: Before, During, and After

Is your toddler ready to start school for the first time?

The first day of preschool is exciting and scary for both kids and their parents. Try following these tips to make the most of this new adventure.

Before the Fall

1. Take a test run.

Visit the school and meet the teacher, if you can. If not, then at least visit the playground. Talk about what you child can expect in preschool and listen to her concerns. The more your child is involved in the conversation, the more comfortable she will be when it’s time to go.

2. Figure out logistics.

Plan how your child will get to and from school, and review the plan with him. Find out what supplies he will need to bring. If your child has medication that must be taken at school, contact the health professional there in advance.

3. Build up independence skills.

Preschool is just as much about developing independence and learning student habits as it is about learning letters and numbers. To get her started, make sure she has the basic bathroom skills, including washing hands, and that she can dress herself and tie her shoes. If she doesn’t have a solid grasp of these skills, that’s okay. Teachers will be able to help, but even a little experience at home can go a long way at school.

4. Get your supplies.

Nothing can make your child feel like a big kid more than a new backpack. Sure, it’ll mostly be for carrying snacks and art projects, but if it’s in your budget, allowing your child to select his own backpack can diminish many first-day anxieties. Also consider labeling the items with your child’s name in case they go missing.

5. Talk about being a good friend.

For many kids, this is the first time they’ll have to get along with other kids for an extended period of time. Let him know that most kids get nervous, and try a little role playing to help your child find the right phrasing to initiate play, share, and ask for help.

6. Practice a “school night bedtime.”

A week or two before, start going to bed at a set time to get used to the routine so that there are no arguments when it counts.

The Big Day

1. Get things together.

Choose a favorite outfit the night before and set it out. Know what snack you will pack and what time you will need to wake up and be out the door.

2. Get there early.

Be available to walk or drive your student to school, if you can, and get there a few minutes early. Feeling rushed can increase anxiety. This will also give you a few minutes to explore with your child and say hello to the teacher together.

3. Get in a good goodbye.

The initial separation can be scary, but stay positive and confident, and don’t linger more than 15 minutes or so. If your child senses nervousness in you, she may feel antsy as well. But do make sure you say goodbye; sneaking away can frighten her!

For more tips on how to make this first separation easy, check out our article: The Art of Saying Goodbye to Your Preschooler

After School

1. Let him talk.

Affirm the importance of school and validate your student’s experiences by letting him tell stories and share what he learned. Ask questions about new friends, how he felt, and what he loved most.

2. Settle into a routine.

In the days to come, find a routine that works for you both before and after school. Is there something that holds you up in the morning? Is there homework after school? Make your routine unique with a special hand signal to say goodbye or a rhyme to greet her after. Sticking to a routine will help you out the door faster in the morning and knowing what to expect is comforting to a child.

3. Keep the communication going.

Make a habit of asking your child about her favorite thing that day or any concerns she has, but also stay in touch with the teacher. He or she can be a wonderful ally, and will keep you informed on your child’s growing independence.