18 Essential Activities to Prepare Your Child for Preschool

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.

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2. Visit the library

Chances are you already know about the great story times and other activities your local library offers growing tots, but did you know that libraries are a great way to model going to school? Each time you visit, your child is learning how to behave in a quiet, shared space, nicely use books that aren’t theirs, and respect librarians as educational adult figures.

3. Point out preschools you pass

And keep it fun and casual. Steer away from language like, “You’re going to a new school and Mommy will miss you!” and instead draw fun, positive comparisons like, “See the playground? When you go to preschool, you’ll get to play on a playground like that.”

4. Use pretend play to introduce the idea of preschool

Play teacher and student to promote the idea of school as fun, as well as to introduce educational building blocks that will help your child succeed. For real toys, tools, and activities your kiddo might encounter in a classroom, consider a subscription to Kindergarten Crate, a teacher-designed box of classroom activities and supplies for young children.

Practice playtime and social skills

Chances are, you’re already teaching your child many of the skills they need to thrive in a pre-K social environment. Make sure to engage your child in a mix of playtime styles – family board game time and crafts help build fine motor skills, lay educational building blocks, and encourage taking turns and sitting through entire activities. Mix in active, playful activities and playdates help your child learn coordination and other important social skills as well.

5. Model taking turns

Even if your child is an only child, it’s easy to model how to take turns. Play games that are turn-based, like Hungry, Hungry Hippos or Chutes & Ladders. Practice asking your child for their favorite toy, and demonstrate turn-taking with your partner.

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Even if your child is an only child, it’s easy to model how to take turns. Play games that are turn-based, like Hungry, Hungry Hippos or Chutes & Ladders. Practice asking your child for their favorite toy, and demonstrate turn-taking with your partner.

6. Practice cleaning up and putting away

Playtime isn’t over until the room is like we found it! Help your child excel in the preschool classroom with this essential skill by cleaning up after games or kid-friendly arts and crafts activities together. (For guided, easy-clean activities, check out the tot-oriented We Craft Box, which includes 2-3 craft activities with photo guides and all needed materials, except for scissors.)

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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.

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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.

Once your child has mastered this skill, help them learn respect for the planet and those around them with Green Kids Crafts' Earth-friendly STEAM lessons.

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!

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10. Teach basic STEM skills with cooking and crafting

Sometimes, we learn about the world by getting messy! Check out these 10 fun recipes to cook with toddlers, and help them take it to the next level making homemade Play-Dough, which is great for building motor skills and hand strength. Tinkering Toddler Crates is also unmissable for home delivery of tot-friendly craft activities – get messy and get learning!

11. Practice coloring

Who doesn’t love coloring? This fun, quiet activity does more than just occupy growing minds – it also teaches color names and lets kids practice fine motor skills like handling markers or crayons, drawing straight and curvy lines, and staying inside the lines as they color.

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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.

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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.

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16. Visit the school with your child

Help them build positive associations with their new environment before the big day.

17. Establish a morning routine

Building routine into your schedule helps your child adjust to the routine of the school day, and gives them a stable launching point when big changes – like the first day of school – are introduced to the mix.