If your child is starting preschool this fall, you may be approaching this major milestone with conflicting emotions. You’re excited about all the fun your child will have, the knowledge he or she will gain and the new friends he or she will make. At the same time, you may feel a bit sad that your baby is venturing out into the big world without you. These emotions are common.

There’s a lot you can do to get ready for the big day. Below are some of the most commonly asked questions and answers to help make this milestone transition positive and successful!

When and how should I start preparing my child for preschool?

There’s no time like the present, and I/we recommend preparing at least two weeks before school starts. Use pretend play to explore the idea of preschool. Take turns being the parent, child, and teacher. Act out common daily routines, such as saying good-bye to mommy/daddy/nanny, singing songs, reading stories, playing outside, and doing art projects. Reassure your child that preschool is a good place where he/she will have fun!

Make a game out of practicing self-help skills, including unzipping his or her coat and hanging it up, or putting on his or her backpack. For example, you might want to have a “race” with your child to see how quickly they can put on their shoes. These important skills will make them feel proud and accomplished before they even get there!

Finally, read books about preschool. Borrow one from the library, or purchase one or two, to share with your child over the summer before school starts.

Can I meet the teacher beforehand?

Most schools will allow you to meet the teacher in advance if there’s a specific reason for the request (e.g. your child needs special considerations). That said, trust in the school’s administration (you chose them!) that they will assign your child to a wonderful, knowledgeable professional who will take the utmost care of your special little person.

What should I do the night before to help prepare my child?

If you’ve purchased a backpack for your child, let him or her help you pack it (save the perishables for the next day, of course!). This gives them a sense of control and emphasizes the fact that he or she is a “big kid” starting preschool. Other tips:

  • Answer any of their last-minute questions
  • Let your child choose (weather- and school-appropriate) clothes for the first day
  • Make sure that your child goes to bed on time and keep the routine relaxing; no need to focus too much (or at all!) on the first day of school unless they want to

Is there anything I should do in the morning to prepare?

Don’t rush in the morning. By getting everyone up at a reasonable hour, you won’t have to hurry your child as her or she enjoys their morning cereal or pancakes. Speaking of breakfast, if possible, sit down to eat together—or at least talk with your child as they eat and you get ready. Review the day’s routine so they feel comfortable (what preschool will be like, how your child will get to school/come home).

Let your child pick a special stuffed animal, or blanket or lovey” to bring to school with them. These items can help children make the transition from home to school easier. You may want to send your child with a family photo to keep in their cubby as familiar objects can help if she feels lonely during the day.

Check back for PART II of the blog (day of and post-first day tips)!