11 Preschool Tips For Parents [+ How To Prepare For A Great Year!]

preschool tips for parents

Every parent wants to know how to prepare for preschool to have a great year! It's one of the first big transitions our toddlers go through and it can feel a little nerve wracking as a mom or dad sending your kiddo off. Discover our best preschool tips for parents based off first hand experience.

Preschool Tips For Parents

Stick To The Facts

When it comes to preparing your child for preschool (or changing schools or going back after a break), I'm a big proponent of less is more, and what that really means is just stick to the facts.

I do not recommend going to library or getting books preemptively that talk about school.

I go into a great detail as to why that is in my post on things to avoid when selecting books for babies, toddlers, and preschoolers.

But in short, you don't want to introduce a book or a TV show or something where the main character is nervous or has some sort of point of anxiety / contention which defines the school experience for your child, before they've had a chance to experience it firsthand.

Toddlers and preschoolers like to “try out” different personalities, choices, and emotions to see what the experience is like. They typically pulls these personas from what they see in their own lives – which includes books/tv/movies. By introducing books where school is a big “boogie man” so to speak, kids may associate that as the “norm” and things that's how they are supposed to respond/react and then reenact the story in their life.

Instead, what I really like to do is play with my child and show them the facts about their new routine.

I show a full detailed example of this in my post on emotional play activities. But essentially you'll use tangible toys to show them their new routine and where each of the primary players in their life will be during the day.

This takes an abstract idea and makes it concrete; providing a sense of control and understanding about what is staying the same and what is changing in their life. I find it's a very calming way to approach this transition versus jumping into some emotional stuff that they may or may not experience.

If your child went to school + had a bad experience:

Now, with all of that said, if your child does have an emotional experience, they're scared, they're nervous, there's something specific going on, books are gonna be your friend. If you can find a book that aligns with your child's pain point, that's a very valuable tool. But I don't love the idea of giving them a story before they've actually had enough chance to build their own.

Books to prepare for preschool

While I don't recommend getting books centering the preschool experience or starting school, I do think there are certain types of books that are really great to read leading up to preschool.

And those are gonna be books that focus on listening, inclusion, and social skills in a group.

Here are some of our favorites:

I like these books because they focus on giving our kids skills for coping with distressing situations versus highlighting preschool as this like big scary “boogie-man”, so to speak.

These books teach skills that are transferable beyond the classroom, but give them a framework to pull from IN the classroom too. The idea here is really to help build their confidence in how to conduct themselves that's supportive in a group environment.

Toddler Backpack Tips


Typically, you're gonna find a backpack that's like 12 inches ish, no more than like 14 inches and ideally with a chest strap. I go into more details on selecting the right size and style toddler backpack here (+ my top picks!).

The other thing to do to prepare for a great preschool experience is make sure their lunchbox and water bottle fit into the backpack before your big day!

Preschoolers don't have a ton of books or anything like that. Teachers usually just squish any art into their tiny backpack, so you really just need to ensure a toddler lunch box, water bottle, and change of clothes fit in their. If it doesn't, you may need to purchase a separate toddler lunch bag as you don't want to overload the backpack and hurt their back.


I strongly recommend avoiding the backpacks that have your child's name on the exterior. Now, I know a lot of preschools want you to label their name on their backpack. You can do this right inside. Some backpacks even have a little name tag spot inside.

But putting your child's name on the exterior of their backpack is a safety concern.

As we all know, toddlers really like to wear certain accessories around the clocks. So maybe they choose to wear their backpack not at school, but rather at a city playground or grocery store or Disney. The last thing you want is some creep, seeing your child's name on their backpack, and then kind of luring them in.

Obviously, you wanna be having safety conversations with your preschooler about this anyway, but you may as well not invite that in with something that can be so easily avoided.

There are other ways to personalize your backpack. Like we have this one here, where you can go ahead and get these fun stickers that stick onto the backpack and can be changed out.

Practice independent skills

In the weeks leading up to school, practice the independent skills you're child may need in the classroom.

Things like getting their shoes on and off, getting dressed, pushing up and down their pants/underwear, wiping their own butt.

Another really big one, that's often overlooked, is practicing their lunch IN their new lunchbox so that they can get used to opening it and closing it independently! This is our favorite, because it's easy enough for 2 year olds to open, has tons of compartments, and compact for small backpacks.

Obviously at preschools, teachers expect to help the kids out with their all of this, including their lunch. But if your child is in a mixed age class with a bunch of three to six year olds, and the six year olds are already eating and the teacher hasn't gotten over to help your three year old yet, it can feel a little bit insecure/lonely/overwhelming.

So just giving them that opportunity to really be able to take care of themselves in that way can help them feel a lot more confident in the classroom.

Additionally, try and pack lunches they they can do entirely themselves in their lunchbox. So we do goat cheese instead of cheese sticks as cheese sticks can get hardened when taken out of their wrapper beforehand.

I find this small area can have a really big impact on their confidence throughout the day.

Let your child choose as much as possible

If we're honest, back to school supply shopping was always the most fun and our preschoolers deserve the joy too.

Typically what I do, is narrow it down to 2 or 3 options I'd be okay with, then call my toddler over to choose which one they like best from the pre-approved selections.

I do this with pretty much everything in their life (clothes, food, etc.)

I find they feel more excited about whatever they chose, and it simultaneously provides some comfort for them and gives them some micro-control in their life.

Follow the new schedule in advance

Try and follow the new school routine a few weeks before school actually starts.

If there's a certain time of day, you're gonna need to be out of the house by every morning, a couple weeks before that actually hits, start to practice it. This way, you can work out any of the kinks and avoid the sense of urgency on the big day

This could be really simple, like packing their backpack and lunch then heading out to the playground, beach, or wherever each morning. It really make this flow as seamlessly as possible come the big day.

You can also shift yours childs nap to match the preschools nap schedule (if they have one); though I don't find this as necessary.

Get names!

Next, once school starts, ask your child's teacher for a list of the first names of their classmates.

This is such a game changer.

Oftentimes I talk to parents and they're like, “I ask my kid what happened in preschool. And they pretty much gimme one word answers or don't respond.” And that was my experience too, when my daughter was first starting out.

I finally realized she did not have the language to communicate what was happening in her day with us because we didn't know the right questions to ask. She had a really hard time remembering the kids' names, which left her kind of feeling unsure of how to tell the story. And once we started getting a list of the first names of her classmates, we were able to start asking her questions like, “what did Matt do today? What happened with Jesse?

She became much more excited that we knew about what was happening in our classroom – AND that all of the pressure didn't fall on her to remember all of the details of the debt.

It felt great to see her want to tell us a story, ask for the list of names, and feel so much more confident about continuing the story she previously would've abandoned because it felt too hard to remember all the details. Her confidence really built up from there.

And that's not to say that like she doesn't come home and just not wanna tell us about her day. Sometimes that still happens. She's a person, and just like we come home from work or wherever and we don't want to tell our significant other about our day because we just want a break and rest.

Shoe tips + picks

Next essential I wanna talk about are shoes. So depending on your climate, you definitely wanna have some sort of toddler water shoe, kids sandals, or rain boots.

This way, if it is rainy or muddy and they're outside playing, they don't end up ruining a pair of shoes. And obviously if you are in a colder climate, eventually later on in the year making sure they have something warm and water resistant.

Wet + Dry Bags

The next major recommended item I see on preschool essentialist are wet and dry bags.

I just kind of wanna throw out a cautionary note. Essentially the concept here is preschools usually want you to send a spare set of clothing in with your child. In theory, you'd put that set of clothing in the wet and dry bag.

Then if your child soils their clothes, they get the fresh clothes out of the wet and dry bag, and the dirty clothes go in the bag to come home and be laundered.

GREAT concept; but I have not had it executed… ever.

In my experience, in two and a half, three years of having my kid at a preschool, not one has utilized the wet dry bag situation.

Instead, I typically get clothes back in a plastic bag or just wedged into her backpack.

Separation anxiety

If preschool separation anxiety does come up for your child, what I suggest using is Dr. Becky's, from Good Inside, “two truths.”

Basically what this says is two truths, even though they seem opposite, can exist at the same time.

This is by far, one of the best preschool separation anxiety tips for preschoolers I've used.

What it sounds like: “You can enjoy going to school and Miss Mommy and Daddy, these are two truths that both exist.”

This can validate their feelings without magnifying them and snowballing them into the wrong direction.

What I typically do, is use two truths, and then I usually ask tell a story about when I had a similar experience of enjoying something but missing something and how that turned out for me. I go into details on how I felt during the problem, the skills I used and how it all turned out.

This way kids learn that in order to fix the one truth of missing mommy and daddy, it doesn't mean that we have to give up school, which we also enjoy. Instead we can come up with other solutions and skills to work through it while validating their feelings.

Final thoughts

Sending your child off to preschool, switching schools, or going back after a break can be a big transition for your preschool and as a parent. Give lots of space for big emotions (both yours and theirs), take a deep breath, and know it'll all play out exactly as it should. While these preschool tips can make things easier, sometimes a school just isn't a good fit. If that's the case, trust your gut (I talk about this here:

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