The first day of preschool is an important and momentous event. Like all major milestones, it can also provoke a great deal of anxiety – both for children and for parents, especially first-time parents. Suddenly, all the nurturing, loving, and teaching that you’ve been performing at home are colliding with the brand-new structure of a daycare or preschool classroom, and with the parenting styles of all your child’s new classmates.
Fortunately, there are more resources available than ever to help busy parents make sure their little ones shine on the first day of preschool. Here are 18 simple, fun activities you can do at home to help your kiddo meet their developmental milestones, handle separation anxiety like a champ, and make new friends on the big day.
Gently introduce your child to the school environment
Some parents start talking up preschool to their kiddos months in advance – but for some children, the prolonged anticipation can transform into anxiety or dread. Introduce the idea of preschool gently with these activities.
1. Read stories about preschool
Introduce your little one to the idea of school by reading books together that take place in school. As the big day approaches, draw on the stories of their beloved characters to allay their fears and provide role models for success.
7. Practice listening and sitting through an entire activity with story time
Sometimes it’s hard to keep busy bodies still! Teach your child the reward of sitting through a sustained activity with story time. This treasured child-parent time introduces foundational building blocks for literacy, teaches sustained listening, and helps children develop a lifelong association of learning and being loved. My First Reading Club and Tiny Humans Read are great places to start, offering subscription-style home story time ideas tailored to preschool and pre-preschool children.
8. Teach eye contact and respect for those around us
Practice and model making eye contact when saying hello, thank you, and goodbye. Remind your child that this helps show respect for those around them and makes new friends feel good.
Prep for success with fine motor skills and learning foundations
This can be the most daunting category for new parents – have I taught my child everything they need to hit those early childhood milestones? Fortunately, fun arts and crafts and at-home activities can do more than enough to prepare your child for preschool.
9. Practice scissors skills
Let your child safely learn scissor-handling skills before the big day. Trace lines – straight, curvy, and other shapes – and let them practice cutting them with safety scissors. Bonus: This activity provides an easy model for practicing clean-up after!
12. Use tools to practice clean-up
When your kiddo is ready for a real fine motor challenge, turn clean-up into a fun game by using tools, such as rubber tongs, to sort items into piles. This builds all sorts of muscles in the arms and hands.
13. Teach basic colors, shapes, numbers, and letters
Get your child ahead of the game. Read books that introduce these concepts, and reinforce them with fun songs, games, and activities. For a head start that you can begin months before the first day of school, subscribe to The Preschool Box, a subscription curated by parents of preschoolers which delivers monthly activities targeting these exact building blocks.
14. Enhance pre-reading with pretend play
Invite your child to build an imaginative bridge between their lives and your story time books with dress-up and pretend! Raid your own closet to put together a silly costume bag, or treat yourself to a subscription to Little Bookish Wardrobe for monthly curated deliveries of paired picture books and costume pieces.
Get ready for the big day
With these early childhood skills under their belt – plus big-kid essentials like washing hands, pulling pants up and down for the potty, and taking shoes on and off – your little one is ready for school. But are you? Here are some things you can do to help make the adjustment easier for both of you.
15. Talk to your child’s preschool teachers
Preschool teachers are the experts, and they’ve seen more tearful goodbyes on the first day of school than you can imagine. Ask them what to expect. If you have the chance, introduce them to your child before the first day of school to help your child build trust for them.