By Kia Hammond | @kiamhammond
I’m getting ready to send my four-year-old daughter to preschool for the first time this fall. It’s been eight years since the last time I prepared a child for preschool, but I remember how big the transition was for both of us. This time I am doing it while also navigating life as a mom to a tween entering middle school and a 17-month-old toddler, so I’m eager to develop a school routine that promotes independence, especially since we’ll be welcoming a newborn in December! To ease the stress of the transition to preschool, I’m sharing the routines we’ve started well ahead of my daughter’s first day to help us both feel ready:
A few weeks before the first day of school, my daughter started practicing getting herself fully dressed. Since I have multiple young children who need help getting dressed, it’s easy to get caught up in doing the little things like putting on their socks and shoes for them so we can hurry out the door. Preschool teachers appreciate it if your child can get dressed independently in the classroom, so I think it helps to build their confidence by practicing and learning at home. Together with my child, we set out her clothes, shoes, and backpack the night before a school day to make the morning more successful. We also got into the habit of early morning grooming, like teeth brushing and hair combing, before breakfast. It helped her feel like a real big kid before grabbing lunch boxes, backpacks, and lovies as she headed out the door!
Independent Toilet Habits
If your child is newly four years old, like mine, you’ve probably been doing most of the wiping to ensure a job well done. But they’ll have to do it themselves at school, and getting into the habit of doing it well can take a little while to get used to. Have you ever caught your kids doing the “pee dance” while playing with their friends? And you have to gently remind them that might be time to use the bathroom? Sometimes kids get so caught up in play that they have accidents simply because they did not want to stop playing or were even too shy to tell/ask a teacher to go. This has been a big talking point in our house to remind my daughter that when ya gotta go, ya gotta go! We’ve found that it’s a good idea to practice going to the bathroom alone with more difficult clothing like dresses and pants with buttons.
Familiarity With School Things
I wanted my child to be familiar with the idea of school and what she would encounter there. She was really excited about going to preschool to make new friends, so I reminded her that there will be other kids who she will share toys with, play games with, sing with…. and that preschool can be a really fun place! We drove past the school as many chances we get to show her where she will be spending some of her days. We talked about how her teachers will be there to help her learn, and that they are safe adults if there is something she needs.
Independent Lunch Eating
Before starting school, I wanted to help my daughter feel ready to eat in a school environment. We practiced eating packed lunches using her school lunch box. I wanted to make sure she could open it independently, knew how to refill cups/water bottles, and wash her hands before eating. My child has food allergies, so it was also very important to remind her that we don’t share lunches with other preschoolers!
Decompressing & Return-To-Home Routine
It’s been really helpful for my family to establish a routine to decompress after a school day. We’ve designated a place to put backpacks and shoes when we first come in the door. Then, we grab a snack and find a way to relax. In our house, we’ve found that watching a show, reading a book, or playing independently while I get dinner on the table can be a good way to wind down from a long day!
Remember that it may take a few weeks for real adjustment to start, and maybe a few tears (from both you and your preschooler) at dropoffs (especially if this is your preschoolers first time not being home with you!), but things will get better and more exciting as the school year progresses. You’re doing a great job, mama!
Kia Hammond | @kiamhammond
Kia lives in Central Pennsylvania with her husband and three children, and she’s pregnant with baby number four. She’s a former postpartum/newborn nurse who loves engaging, encouraging, and supporting new moms. She left the workforce during the pandemic after years of working and being a student mother and is now adjusting to life as a stay-at-home mom.