Quick Tips for Preschool Preparation from Dr. Luke Voytas

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Quick Tips for Preschool Preparation

From Dr. Luke Voytas author of Beyond the Checkup


Your kid’s about to start preschool?! Wasn’t she just a baby like a few months ago? I’ve been through preschool startups twice, and I’m sure you’re as excited as I was. But there’s also that stomach-churning anxiety – is she going to be the one screaming and holding onto your leg on the first day? Or for the first month? Is she going to have friends? How will he compare to the other kids? Can he really survive without you for three hours?


The short answer is that your kid’s going to do great – for years I’ve been impressed by how my patients love pre-school and adjust more quickly than their parents are expecting. Here are a few simple things you can do to make the transition even easier for your little scholar.

  • Have Fun Getting the Gear. Make an event of shopping for school supplies with your kid. Kids love getting stuff. It can be super fun for her to have an outing with you and choose a new backpack, lunchbox, and maybe a few new clothing items for school. For you planners out there, hold off on this until a few weeks before school starts! You want to ride that momentum.


  • Make Your Kid a Self-Help Superstar. Think of all the little tasks he’ll have to do throughout the day and practice them – putting on his backpack, getting his shoes on and off, zipping up his jacket, opening his lunch box and food containers, etc. Being comfortable with all this stuff will boost his confidence when “zero hour” arrives.


  • The Power of the Preemptive Playdate. Many pre-schools have a meet-and-greet before the start of school where you and your kiddo get to go hang out with other students and parents. If possible, try to set up one or two more get-togethers at a local playground. This will help your kid know some faces on the first day in an environment where she’s comfortable. And by now you’ve probably realized that most of your social life is going to revolve around your kids for the next 15 years, so these playdates are a great chance for you to meet some long-lasting friends as well.


  • Get Visual. At age three or four, your kid can understand what he sees way better than what he hears. Take advantage of this when you’re trying to prepare him for what his preschool days will look like. For example, you might draw (simply) from the top to the bottom of a page a picture of a car, then the teacher’s smiling face, then some blocks, then a slide, then some food, then kids in a circle, then another car that shows your stick-self coming back for pick-up. Simple, but a proven anxiety-killer. Start a few days before and continue for the first few weeks of school.


  • Diffusing Dropoff Drama. It’s a toss-up whether you or your child will be more nervous as you walk through the door on the first day. Despite the butterflies in your stomach, you need to be as calm and upbeat as possible, because your preschooler will take her cues from you. Plan on spending 15-20 minutes at drop-off the first day, and make a few laps of the backpack cubbies, play areas, and potty. Tell her when you’re leaving in three minutes. . . then two. . . then one. . . and when time’s up give a crisp confident kiss and hug and get out of there! No parent (including myself) has ever improved the situation by going back to a crying kid for one last hug. And trust me – you’ll feel better a few hours later when you pick up a beaming kid who can’t wait to tell you about her day.


Your child does NOT need to have good manners, be able to follow directions well, or be a good sharer to start preschool. The whole point of it is to get better at those things! Remember, preschool isn’t really about learning – your kid does most of that at home with you. Preschool is about sitting calmly in a circle while twelve other kids are wiggling around you. It’s about figuring out what to do when another kid rips a toy out of your hands, or how to deal with frustration when your half-built tower of blocks collapses and your mom or dad isn’t there to comfort you.

Most preschools have a policy that your child has to be fully potty-trained to enroll. But at age three, there are plenty of kids still trying to nail down the poop end of things. With a conversation (and maybe a plate of really, really good muffins), most teachers are willing to work with you on this.


Preschool is a great decision for your kid. It will fly by way too fast, so trust in all the work and love you’ve put into your kid over the past few years and enjoy it!



Written by Dr. Luke Voytas author of Beyond the Checkup

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