Whether this year’s preschool prep is for your first kid, last kid or somewhere in between, there are a few insider tips that every parent should know. As a preschool substitute, I have a few tips for any parent looking for a smooth transition into ABC land.
Find out when the first day of school is
Sounds easy enough, right? Coming off a summer schedule can throw even the most organized parent for a loop, especially in Chicago and suburbs when everyone starts school on a different date. Get a large family calendar and put it in a heavy traffic area where everyone can see it. Circle the date in a bold marker, put stickers all around it and help get your child excited about what’s to come. Extra tip: Buy your little one her own calendar and help her hang it in her room. This will help her countdown the days until she starts preschool.
Kids get super excited about lunch time
To get ready for the upcoming school year, make sure you have not just one but several lunchboxes. It’s one less thing you have to stress about on school mornings when you realize your only lunchbox is still in the dishwasher.
I get to see quite a few lunchboxes while subbing at my daughter’s preschool so I can tell you that Bento-style is still the way to go. This is the perfect way to include lots of little bites of their favorite foods to create one complete meal. My favorite? Bentology. It doesn’t warp in the dishwasher like other brands seem to do. bentology.com.
Stuff can easily go missing when you have a classroom of little kids because those mutant turtles backpacks and scissors all seem to look alike. If you don’t want to keep replacing the same items over and over, slap a label on your stuff, especially those shoes and clothes meant to be kept at school for accidents, lunch boxes and reusable water bottles. Mabel’s Labels are great; they don’t fall off in the wash or dishwater. mabelslabels.com.
Get the right nap mat
Make sure your child has a comfortable and portable nap mat to bring to school. I also suggest buying a travel pillow, which is smaller than the typical pillow. Grab some fabric that represents your child’s interests and use fabric glue to make a cover for the travel pillow. I did this with my 4-year-old and it was a hit with her friends.
Visit the building and create a routine
A couple of weeks before preschool starts, visit the school playground or the building. Drive or walk to preschool a few times before class starts, too. Plan to leave yourself time to arrive at school early and be on time to pick up your child. By getting to school with time to spare, your child will have a few extra minutes of quiet in the classroom or hallways before the chaos of the day ensues.
Get the school routine in place. Set up a comforting bedtime ritual such as reading a story or singing a song so they get used to going to bed in order to be well rested.
The morning routine is equally important. Instead of waiting to pick out clothes that morning, choose them the night before. Let your child be involved to eliminate arguments about what to wear. Make sure they eat a healthy breakfast every morning, too.
Last but not least, hair
Lice are a real part of preschool. It doesn’t happen to everyone, but when it does it’s not fun. Keep long hair in a ponytail if possible. However, if you have a child who does not like their hair up and refuses to let you do anything with it (like mine), using a spray or shampoo with Tea Tree Oil in it is your best bet. Fairytales brand is my favorite and the smell is clean and fresh. fairytaleshaircare.com.
Chicago Parent staff contributed to this story.
This is writer Meagan Ruffing’s last year of having a child in preschool.
This article originally appeared in the August issue of Chicago Parent. Read the rest of the issue.