How to Get Your Toddler Ready for Preschool
Preparing to send your child to preschool can be one of the most difficult times in every parent’s life. In fact, a recent survey revealed that 63% of moms feel the first day of preschool is harder for them than for their kids.
While introducing your toddler to this part of their development is beneficial, it can still be unsettling — and you can’t help but wonder if you’re both ready for that next step.
At ParentEducate.com, the No. 1 source for research-based parenting courses, we’re dedicated to making these types of transitions a breeze. To do that, we’re sharing the top activities to help you and your child get ready for their big day.
Read books about the first day.
Giving your child a preview of what they will experience is helpful for preparing for preschool. Look through stories and pictures with other characters going through the same change. This is a great way to help them understand they’re not alone and have a lot to look forward to. We recommend reading these five titles (which are perfect for learning how to get your toddler ready for preschool):
- “Clifford’s First School Day” by Norman Bridwell
- “What to Expect at Preschool” by Heidi Murkoff
- “Preschool Here I Come” by D.J. Steinberg
- “First Day at Bug School” by Sam Lloyd
- “Rosie Goes to Preschool” by Karen Katz
Use pretend play.
Another one of our suggested activities when preparing for preschool? Act out what your child’s first day will look like by playing the student, parent and teacher. Begin with the hardest part, “the drop off,” with a backpack and lunchbox in hand. Then, make sure they greet the teacher in the classroom and put their things away. Your little one should introduce themselves to their classmates, participate in circle time, play outside and take a nap. Once you’ve concluded the day, don’t forget to wave goodbye to the teacher and then talk about everything that happened. Remember to answer all your toddler’s questions so they are more informed and less anxious. By doing this, starting preschool will be much more comfortable for them since you’ve played out every scenario.
Practice self-help skills.
A key part of easily beginning preschool is learning independence. To ensure your child is more self-sufficient, practicing skills they can do on their own (and even making some into a game) is one of the most important activities when preparing for preschool while still at home. Teach your toddler everything from putting on their shoes to washing their hands so they are confident about handling tasks themselves. When you’re both eating together, you can use that time to make sure they know how to use utensils, unwrap their food and put their lunch away when it’s finished. Go over using the potty so that it’s a smooth process when your child is in the classroom. Since this will be a big developmental leap for your little one, it’s crucial to review the skills they’ll need on the first day and throughout the school year.
Express their feelings with puppets.
It’s no secret the first day is overwhelming for you and your child. A healthy way to deal with those emotions is to encourage your toddler to express themselves. One of the best activities to prepare for preschool (and allow your little one to open up to you) is playing with puppets. Using felt puppets helps them to communicate their emotions and gives them a friend to talk to indirectly. For example, by having the puppet ask your toddler “How do you feel about your first day coming up,” you provide them a safe space to explore their feelings and pick up strategies to deal with fear, stress, anger or anxiety while preparing for preschool. Ensuring your child’s feelings are heard is important for their emotional development and learning to manage their responses in different situations.
Visit the preschool.
We’ve saved the best for last when it comes to knowing how to get your toddler ready for preschool. Visit their school in advance to help increase their comfort and provide them with a better idea of what to expect so there are no intimidating surprises. Take this opportunity to meet the teacher and have them answer any questions from your little one. Walking through their class schedule is helpful for going over each part of the day as well. You can also show your toddler where their personal belongings will be kept. By introducing the teacher and your child beforehand, you’ll additionally feel more comfortable leaving your kiddo on their own in a new environment.
Want to learn more about how to get your toddler ready for preschool and other milestones ahead? Our online parenting courses can help! Click here to sign-up for a seven-day trial and access them for free today.