13 Tips to Prepare your Toddler for Their First Year of Preschool

Lennox starts preschool in less than a month, and I just cannot believe it. I know this is so cliché, but where the hell has the time gone? I never ever imagined having a preschooler, isn't he still a baby?

On a serious note, I am more excited than nervous. Okay, you got me. I am over the moon excited to have a few hours to myself each week. I will now be able to get a haircut or enjoy a nice lunch. No, scratch that, I'll most likely be spending my four whole hours a week blogging. #bloglife.

 
13 Tips to Prepare your Toddler for Their First Year of Preschool
 

Now on a seriously, serious note, I am super excited for Lennox. I know he will do so well and love school. How can I so confidently say that? Well, we pretty much have preschool every day in our household because this mama loves crafts, routines, and adventures.

First things first, I wanted to share my reasoning behind starting Lennox in preschool, and then I want briefly mention the benefits preschool has on children, and then I would like to offer some great tips to help you prepare your tot for preschool. Here goes.

My reasons for sending Lennox to preschool at two-years-old:

First and foremost, I want Lennox to learn social skills. We are both extroverts; hence, we are always out and about on the town and meeting with friends. However, Lennox has been showing patterns of aggressiveness towards other (especially younger) children from an early age. I don't plan on popping out a sibling in the near future, so I wanted to give Lennox the opportunity to have structured socialization with other kids his age.

Secondly, a good friend of mine introduced me to her son's preschool, which is a cooperative— a school established and directed by parents. Not only do coops come with an economic advantage ( more affordable since the school does not have to pay as much staff) but I also get to be extremely involved in Lennox's preschool experience.

Lastly, we don't have much help with Lennox, and this entrepreneurial mama needs a little extra time to get a lot more done to be successful.

 
13 Tips to Prepare your Toddler for Their First Year of Preschool
 

What are the benefits of preschool?

Greatschools.org has a comprehensive list of reasons why preschool is beneficial for toddlers. Amongst those, some of the ones that stuck out to me were:

Preschool is an opportunity for growth
Preschool prepares children for kindergarten
Preschool promotes social and emotional development
The preschool environment is structured, although it may not appear that way
Children get to make choices
Children learn to take care of themselves and others
Preschool teachers nurture a child's curiosity
Preschool promotes language and cognitive skills
Preschool activities boost pre-math and literacy skills
Preschool helps develop motor skills

It all sounds like a win, win to me. I think Lennox will thrive in preschool and I am so excited for him. The only thing that makes me sad is he will now start learning English. Don't get me wrong, I am excited for him to learn English, but I have worked so hard since his birth to only speak to him in Spanish, I am hoping he doesn't lose it.

Related: 7 Ways That I Teach My Toddler Spanish as a Nonnative Spanish Speaker

Well, let's get to the nitty-gritty. Below are 13 tips to prepare your toddler for their first year of preschool.

 
13 Tips to Prepare your Toddler for Their First Year of Preschool
 

1. Prepare your child’s skills ahead of time right from your own home.

One of the most vital skills your toddler will learn in preschool is fine motor control.

"Fine motor skills involves the use of the smaller muscle of the hands, commonly in activities like using pencils, scissors, construction with lego or duplo, doing up buttons and opening lunch boxes.

Fine motor skill efficiency significantly influences the quality of the task outcome as well as the speed of task performance. Efficient fine motor skills require a number of independent skills to work together to appropriately manipulate the object or perform the task."

Source: Kid Sense

Start implementing daily activities into your day that can help your toddler work his fine motor skills. Some ideas are:

Crafting
Pouring
Open and closing containers
Using child-safe scissors
Painting, drawing, scribbling, coloring
Stickers
Puzzles
Stacking
Building

Check out Lennox and some of his fine motor activities. He loves doing detailed tasks. It is very stimulating, and calming at the same time. Toddlers’ attention spans might be short, but practicing activities like this ahead of time will give them a jump start for structured preschool activities.

13 Tips to Prepare your Toddler for Their First Year of Preschool
13 Tips to Prepare your Toddler for Their First Year of Preschool
13 Tips to Prepare your Toddler for Their First Year of Preschool

Related: 5 Sensory and Fine Motor Fall Crafts for Toddlers

Along with fine motor skills, preschool will work on gross motor skills which develops the larger, stronger muscle groups of the body. Here is a list of some gross motor activities:

play outside
kick a ball
throw a ball
running
jumping
use ride-on toys
climbing

Take your child outside to explore. Some activities we did this spring and summer to improve Lennox’s gross motor skills were: gardening, fishing, swimming, playing outdoors, sports, jumping on a trampoline, hiking, among others.

Related:20 Outdoor Toys That Will Keep Your Toddler Busy This Summer

13 Tips to Prepare your Toddler for Their First Year of Preschool
13 Tips to Prepare your Toddler for Their First Year of Preschool

Below are some toys that can help your child prepare for preschool:

2. Read to your toddler.

Read, read, read. That is all I can say. Read in a funny voice. Talk about the pictures. Sing to the words. Do anything you can to get your child in the zone, and focused on listening.

 
13 Tips to Prepare your Toddler for Their First Year of Preschool
 

Also, read books that introduce preschool and what it will be like so he can start understanding the significant change that is about to happen. I recently bought Lennox this book, and I have been trying to read It at least once a week for the past month now.

 
 

Related: Lennox’s Seven Favorite Baby and Toddler Books in Spanish

3. Talk to your child about preschool and what may come.

Talking is key for listening and communication skills. Talk to your toddler with a normal voice. Get on eye-level with him and communicate with him. Even though he is little, and may not seem lilke he is comprehending everything, he is processing your every word. Conversing with, and listening to your toddler will engender empowerment and confidence, which will result in self-assurance in preschool.

Talk to your child about preschool, about snack time, about sharing, about drop off, about pick up. Talk, talk, talk.

Take him to the store and let him pick out his own materials after you have talked about preschool. We went with Lennox to the Disney store and found the most adorable backpack and sippy cup. We both are slightly obsessed, and Lennox takes his backpack everywhere.

 
Lennox’s backpack and sippy cup for preschool

Lennox’s backpack and sippy cup for preschool

 

4. Visit the school with your toddler.

This is a must. Take your toddler to the school so he can feel he can get to know the environment before his first day of school.

 
Lennox visiting his preschool for the first time.

Lennox visiting his preschool for the first time.

 

5. Get to know the teacher(s).

Introduce your child to their teacher, whether it be at the school, or out at a gathering before the school year starts.

One thing I love about Lennox's preschool is that his teacher makes in-home visits. Her visit was such a beautiful experience. She brought over a box of toys and sat on the floor with Lennox for one hour. For one hour he got to look at her face, play with some of the school’s toys, and get to know his teacher.

Her visit only made me feel all the more confident in this school year. Lennox absolutely loved her, and she was tickled with Lennox. Look at this adorable picture story she drew up from her visit.

Screen Shot 2019-08-14 at 3.39.52 AM.png

6. Make a family poster board.

This is another idea that Lennox's preschool teacher does in the classroom. She asks every family member to make a poster with pictures of the child, their family member and friends. She will laminate them and whenever a child feels sad or simply wants to see his poster board, she takes out the board and lets the child talk about his family. I absolutely adored the idea, and my crafty-self couldn't wait to make it. Check it out below.

The process of making the poster board was a great learning experience for Lennox also because we went through pictures a named family members. Then, we selected some pictures and practiced his scissor skills to cut out some of his favorite pictures. Sorry to all the friends and family who didn’t appear on the board. We were thinking about you, but had a hard time either finding a picture or fitting all 6 grandparents, 11 aunts and uncles, and 22 immediate cousins on a 10 X 12 piece of construction paper. Lennox was blessed with lots of family =)

Lennox’s preschool posterboard. 13 Tips to Prepare your Toddler for Their First Year of Preschool

7. Visit the library

8. Learning on the go

Toddlers are learning so quickly. As adults, we can get caught up in our busy lives and forget about little pockets of time that we can take advantage of to educate our little learners. Take, for example, in the car. Sometimes I find myself zoning out, or jamming to music, only to stop in my tracks and realize that I have little ears in the back. Little ears who instead of learning mom’s music, could be talking and learning new things. As of recently, I have turned off the radio, and instead, I now talk about things we see, or we practice pronunciation of different words.

9. Establish a consistent routine

Consistency is key here. Toddlers thrive off of consistency and routine, and preschool is going to teach them just that. If you haven't started yet, get your toddler into a daily routine, especially a bedtime routine.

Summer was hectic for us, and we definitely went haywire with our regular schedule. Due to this, Lennox's sleep was a mess. For a month he was waking up several times a night, sleeping in bed with us, and was ultimately a crank pot. The past two weeks, I have him back on his strict schedule, and he is like a whole new boy.

Having a consistent routine will cause your child to get better sleep, have a more productive wake time, and feel less anxious about school because he will be familiar with his routine.

Related: 5 Tips to help your sensitive-sleeper sleep better

10. Encourage independence and self-help skills

Independent play
Independent eating
Independent dressing
Independent cleaning
Independent everything!!!

Invite your child to take part in all of the daily happenings- cooking, cleaning, washing dishes, doing laundry. You will be surprised how much they will enjoy helping you, even though you might find it as a hindrance. These independent activities will also help their gross and fine motor, while at the same time encourage independence.

Baby led weaning has helped Lennox be such an independent eater. Check out our series here!

11. Have play dates

Play dates are essential for introducing your child to new people and personalities.

Since the parents help run the program at Lennox’s school, we are in constant communication with each other. This allowed us to schedule multiple playdates throughout the summer. This way, all of the student’s in his two-year-old class will all be familiar with each other once the school year starts.

13 Tips to Prepare your Toddler for Their First Year of Preschool-Playdates
13 Tips to Prepare your Toddler for Their First Year of Preschool-Playdates
13 Tips to Prepare your Toddler for Their First Year of Preschool-Playdates
13 Tips to Prepare your Toddler for Their First Year of Preschool-Playdates

12. Leave your child with a family member or sitter.

If your child is not used to being away from you, now is the perfect time to try out a sitter, or a family member so he can start feeling comfortable being away from you for periods of time.

13. Let loose mama, and let your toddler explore.

Free, unstructured play is an absolute necessity for your child to learn and imagine. As adults, our busy lives come with a lot of rules and regulations, but a child needs space and freedom to create.

" Children need to explore without limitations adults sometimes place around activities. Whenever you can, keep your hands behind your back, resist the temptation to direct every single activity, and let them develop."

Source: Lourdes Dumke M.Ed in Early Childhood Education

We hope you enjoyed this post. Please feel free to comment below with any other suggestions or tips! Wish us luck in our preschool endeavor, and good luck in yours!

13 Tips to Prepare your Toddler for Their First Year of Preschool
13 Tips to Prepare your Toddler for Their First Year of Preschool
13 Ideas to Prepare Your Toddler for Preschool
13 Ideas to Prepare Your Toddler for Preschool