Congratulations! Your toddler is growing up and becoming a preschooler!
Maybe your little darling has spent every day at home with you since birth. Possibly baby boy has been doing the MDO thing a few days a week for the past year or two. Baby girl may have been going to daycare since she was six weeks old.
No matter what your situation is, formal preschool is most likely different from wherever your child has been spending his or her time in the past. And that’s scary — for you and your child. So here are a few dos and don’ts collected from veteran preschool teachers and compiled by yours truly!
- DO buy your little bug all the clothes (or uniforms) and supplies needed.
DON’T go overboard and buy all the coordinating and monogrammed things. It’s important to get junior outfitted and ready for school, but keep in mind that he is still little. Function and washability are the real keys to selecting the perfect items. No one wants to be upset when the fancy backpack doesn’t make it home one day or has a juice box leak EVERYWHERE inside. As for clothes, make extra sure that your child can pull his own pants up and down and put his own shoes on. Pro Tip: Buy clothes a size up to help.
- DO pack your child’s lunch and snack with some favorite foods.
DON’T send a bib and spoon for the teacher to feed your student. Lots of kids don’t eat much at school for the first few weeks due to comfort level. That’s totally normal. But they are more likely to eat their faves than the broccoli they side-eye at the dinner table. Except in special circumstances, your child needs to be able to eat (and ideally OPEN) everything in his lunch on his own. Pro Tip: Slightly open any packaged food and place it in a container or bag that your little darling can open alone.
- DO take a million pictures of your happy student on the first day. Pictures with teachers, by the school doors, by the classroom doors, at the table etc. All fair game (and definitely postable).
DON’T take a million pictures of your child crying. Arrive a bit early to take pictures at the school. There will be lots of parents who want to do the same thing, and no one wants to be late for work! Pro Tip: If you know your student is likely to get upset and anxious, pictures at home with backpacks often guarantee the best smiles.
- DO leave quickly. Give your child a big hug and kiss and assure hum or her you’ll see them soon! Then walk away. I promise we will call you if your child doesn’t stop crying. (He will.)
DON’T sneak out and leave without saying bye. Preschool teachers are wizards with lots of ways to help distract your kiddo, but all of them work better once parents leave. Pro Tip: Little goodbye sayings and rituals give kids comfort in these situations. Come up with one together and do it at every opportunity for a few weeks before school starts.
- DO email or text your child’s teacher with any important information. The more we know about their lives outside the classroom, the more we can understand and meet students’ needs inside the classroom. It is unbelievably helpful to know that Noah didn’t sleep well last night or that Keisha’s mommy is out of town for work.
DON’T text constantly throughout the day or expect to have a lengthy conversation at drop off and pick up. Pro Tip: Ask your child’s teacher the best way to let him know this sort of information. He will likely have a preferred method and will be grateful you want to have open lines of communication!
- DO have high expectations of your student and his teacher. Your child should make progress almost from day one in social, fine motor, and gross motor skills. Kids learn so much so quickly at this age! Teachers are happy to work with students of every level, but we spend most of our time working toward developmental milestones.
DON’T expect your child to be reading by the end of the year. Pro Tip: After a month or so, email your child’s teacher and ask what she recommends to work on at home. Trust her response, even if it’s to get outside more often or play with molding clay. There’s a reason, I promise.
- DO come to school every day and on time. Routines are super important at this age, and they are easy to derail with chronic tardies or absences. We understand that life happens, but please do your best!
DON’T send your student when he or she is sick. Pro Tip: Be mindful of the schedule and let the teacher know any time you can that a student will be late or absent. The gesture will be appreciated.
Now I know not all of these will apply to every family or school, but hopefully you will find a few to be useful! As a preschool teacher AND a mother of current and recent preschoolers, I know how important those first few days can be for students, parents, and teachers. In preschool, the most important thing is for everyone to have fun while they learn and grow. Even moms!
Do you have a preschooler starting this year?