Transition Tips for Starting Preschool

With summer in full swing, many families are enjoying their last weeks of summer knowing that back to school time will be here soon.  Whether this fills you with excitement or worry, it’s bound to bring up some big emotions, for both parents and kiddos.

I remember my daughter’s first day of preschool many years ago.  After dropping her off, I had absolutely no idea what to do with myself.  I drove away sobbing and went to a lonely breakfast with just me and my infant son.  Little did I know how much my daughter would love preschool, and how much I would come to enjoy those 2 ½ hours on Monday and Wednesday morning!

Here are 7 suggestions for a successful transition to preschool, either for the first time, or when returning after summer break.

Start Early - Many schools offer opportunities to visit and spend time together in the classroom before the first day of school.  If your program offers this, take advantage of the opportunity so your child can start getting comfortable at school.  If this isn’t possible, try visiting the outside of the school, or looking at pictures from the programs website or social media page.  If possible, plan playdates with other classmates so your child has a familiar face when they get to school.

Set Them Up for Success – Summer can often mean significant changes in routine, but when possible, spend the weeks leading up to school getting back on track and getting enough sleep.  Enjoy a healthy breakfast or lunch before heading to school, and dress your child in clothing they can be successful and independent in.

Be Positive - Your child will take cues from you, so even if you feel apprehensive, talk positively and with excitement about preschool. 

Prepare Them - As you talk about school, have the same little mantra that you use.  “I’ll help you wash your hands and give you a BIG hug and kiss goodbye.  You will have so much fun and I’ll be back to pick you up after the Goodbye Song.” 

Keep It Quick - A quick and cheerful goodbye works best for most children.  Never, ever sneak out!  It may seem easier in the moment, but it can build distrust and fear in your child. Always say goodbye!

Be on Time - Arrive to school on time so your child can come in with their friends.  Coming in after everyone is inside and settled can be difficult on young children.  Be on time for pick up as well.  A few minutes can feel like an eternity to a child, especially if they have watched all their friends leave and are worried you may not be coming for them.

Have an After Drop Off Plan Too - Plan ahead for what you are going to do after dropping your child off at preschool.  Go for a walk, meet other parents at coffee, head in to work, enjoy some alone time running errands, etc.  Just make sure to have a plan so you’re not sobbing into an omelet at the closest restaurant to the school!

Like all things with our children, there is never a one size fits all approach to any situation.  These suggestions have worked well for the majority of kiddos I have worked with over the past 20 years, but every child is an individual.  Teachers have years of experience with helping families navigate this transition and are a wonderful resource to the families in their class.  If you have questions specific to your child, it is always acceptable to reach out to them for guidance.

Preschool is a magical time and there is great joy in seeing a child beam with pride when they realize they can be successful at school!  I wish you and your children a wonderful year ahead!

Article by Sarah Bradford. Chalkboard pictured by Poised Plume.

Sarah Bradford is the Director at Valley Parent Preschool in Danville, California.  She may be reached at

Valley Parent Preschool