And just like that, the first day of preschool is upon you.
How did the time go by so fast?
The feeling that someone may be manipulating the hourglass is common among mamas.
Weren’t they tiny babes in your arms just yesterday?
We hate to be the bearer of bad news here, but you may just be finding yourself shopping for prom outfits before you can blink your eyes.
But for now, let’s stay in this exciting moment.
So get the cameras and the Kleenex ready.
We’ll give you our top tips to help you prepare for the big day.
(Psst. This time can be full of big emotions. Your Peanut community is here for you.)
In this article: 📝
- What should a 3-year-old know for preschool?
- How do you start the first day of preschool?
- How do I prepare my 3-year-old for preschool?
What should a 3-year-old know for preschool?
First up, let’s take the pressure out of this. Kids are unique, and all develop at different times.
With that in mind, here are some things you can practice with your little one to prep for this new chapter in their lives.
- Being able to follow two- or three-step directions, like sit down, wave, and say hello
- Sort objects by shape and color
- Imitate the actions of others
- Express a bunch of emotions
And exposing them to books and songs is always a great idea.
When they hit preschool, they’ll start playing with other children.
They’ll also master new skills like dressing themselves and using safety scissors, and remembering parts of stories they hear during their day.
(With any luck, they’ll recount them in entertaining detail.)
It’s also worth exploring different types of preschool, too.
Outdoor preschools, like the Boston Outdoor Preschool Network’s #GetKidsOutside campaign, are growing in popularity.
Outdoor preschool can help build stress management and social skills from a young age, and (best of all) encourage a sound night’s sleep!
How do you start the first day of preschool?
Okay, the first thing you need to prepare is yourself.
There may indeed be tears coming from adult eyes on this day.
Do what you need to do to cope with this momentous event ‒ before it comes and on the morning of.
Waking up early to do some relaxing breathing exercises or journalling can help.
Of course, showing your emotions is 100% OK ‒ just keep things positive, so your little one doesn’t start to dread the big task ahead.
If you seem hesitant and unsure, they’ll likely pick up on that.
If they’ve already got used to daycare or being with a caregiver, saying goodbye may not be as tricky.
But you just never know how it will feel at the time.
Then, here are our top tips for getting them prepped for the day ahead.
How do I prepare my 3-year-old for preschool?
1. Imagine it from their perspective.
It may be difficult to see your little one out of sorts as they adapt to this new chapter in their life.
So it can help to consider how the world must look through those little eyes.
Some kids may experience very real separation anxiety that can make this experience particularly challenging for them.
And even if this isn’t the case for your little one, tears are totally normal.
This is a serious change!
But they will get used to it. It’s just about making the first step.
One thing that can help is building excitement for them ‒ try to arrange a visit to their preschool in advance.
If possible, show them where their classroom will be, let them meet their teacher, and show them the other areas of the building.
If you’re allowed, you can also let them play on the school’s playground, which can help your child get familiarized with this new space.
This can make it a little less scary and intimidating for them on their first day at the new school, which can make the adjustment easier for them.
2. Practice the morning routine ahead of time
A few days before the big day, set up a morning routine ‒ breakfast, teeth brushing, bag packing, going for a walk or drive.
The more familiar this is, the more settled they’ll feel when you add the next piece of the puzzle ‒ going to school.
Even schedules and things they’ll be doing at school can be great to practice, so they can get more familiar with them and avoid frustrations or tantrums.
Things like putting on their shoes, hanging up their coat, washing their hands, and taking off their backpack are simple but great skills they can build ahead of time.
3. Make the prep work fun
Take them with you when you go shopping for a lunch box or backpack.
Get them involved when you pack their lunch.
Ask them to pick out their outfit for the big day (another top tip: lay it out ready to go the day before their first day of preschool).
Or, if they’re a fashionista, take them clothes shopping for a special outfit to wear for their first day of preschool.
If they have enough clothes already, how about something small, like some new grown-up socks (we love Bombas for their cute and ethical selection), so they can look at them as a reminder of how they’re totally ready for this transition.
Set up the idea that school is something to look forward to that will be exciting and fun rather than something to be feared.
Another great idea is reading books about starting preschool, which can validate their feelings and remind them that these big feelings are normal and everyone feels them sometimes.
Plus, they’ll see how the characters in the books overcame their challenges, learning for themselves.
A few books to add to your pre-preschool library are:
- Froggy Goes to School by Jonathan London
- Maisy Goes to Preschool by Lucy Cousins
- My First Day at Nursery School by Becky Edwards
- Preschool Day Hooray by Linda Leopold Strauss
- Hello School! by Priscilla Burris
- I Am too Absolutely Small for School by Lauren Child
- My Teacher’s My Friend by P.K. Hallinan
4. Prepare them for the school day schedule
Ask the teacher ahead of time what time naps and playtimes are.
Getting onto this schedule in the weeks before they go to school will mean that it won’t feel unfamiliar when the time arrives.
The more you can do to ease them into the transition, the better.
You can incorporate them slowly into your own routine, gradually over a few weeks or months.
5. Talk them through what to expect
The night before, tell them stories about what they can expect from the first day, the friends they will meet, and the fun they’ll have.
If you’ve been able to meet the teachers or any of their classmates ahead of time, remind them of the wonderful people they’re about to spend time with.
Another fun way of gearing them up for their first day of preschool is to act it out with some make-believe play.
Pretend to drop them off at ‘school’, practice sitting quietly on the floor to read a book, go through the morning routing of unpacking your backpack and hanging up your coat, and even pretend to take a nap together.
You can even switch things up sometimes and have them pretend to be the parent or teacher while you pretend to be the student!
(Just don’t start too early with the anticipation-building as this can leave them feeling that this whole “school” thing is a big unknown that they might need to worry about.)
6. Send them with a comforting object
Having something that reminds them of you and home will reassure them that they can have fun now and that you will return later.
A family photo is a good idea.
7. Prepare yourself for the big goodbye
Some kids will be itching to dive into the world of new friends and play.
Others will be a little skeptical of the whole operation.
And yet others will have a full-on meltdown.
However they respond is legitimate.
Your job is to acknowledge their feelings and then help them feel safe in this new environment.
8. Help them settle in
When you get to the class, take them to see the teacher.
Preschool teachers are remarkably good at helping little ones feel settled.
Then show them all the new friends they are about to play with!
Find kids who are engaged in an activity and see if you can introduce yourselves to them and their parents.
And a serious plus point?
You’re about to meet a bunch of parents that are all going through the same thing as you.
That can be pretty reassuring.
9. Make sure you say goodbye
It’s really important that you have your goodbye and don’t disappear when they’re distracted.
This will set up the expectation that school is a place that they go without you ‒ but that you’ll always say goodbye and always come back.
10. Leave without them
Okay, this one’s a particular challenge.
Even if they are crying their little hearts out, give them the chance to get used to the experience.
Reassure them that you’ll be back to pick them up soon.
We know ‒ this transition is a BIG deal.
And it can take some time to get used to.
If you need support, our mom groups can really help.
We get it.
And we’re here for you.