11 Things to Know Before Sending Your Toddler to Preschool

sending your toddler to preschool
Image Source: Victoria Fedden

In just a couple of weeks, my daughter is starting kindergarten at a new school, a “real” elementary school as she calls it, and it almost seems unfair, because after three years I finally felt like I’d mastered preschool. When she first started, as a toddling 2-year-old, I was utterly clueless, and I was a total wreck.

I have several friends with little ones who are going into preschool for the first time this year. Seeing them brings back so many memories, because I remember exactly how I felt when I was in their situation — confused, elated, guilty, heartbroken, ecstatic, completely panicked. It depended on what second it was.

What I needed back then was some sage advice from a veteran mom who’d made it through preschool boot camp already and knew all the tricks. But now I AM that mom, and here’s what every parent needs to know before sending your toddler to preschool for the first time …

1. Fancy outfits are a big waste.

Send your child to preschool in play clothes. I know the ruffly butt, animal print romper and giant, hot pink bow are adorable, but they’re going to come home covered in paint, glue, food, grass stains, and some other kid’s snot. Preschool is not a fashion show.

2. Biting happens.

Do not flip out, but your kid is either going to bite someone or get bitten, or even more likely, both. This isn’t desirable, but it’s normal. Your special snowflake isn’t going to get rabies, nor is he or she going to grow up to become the next Jeffrey Dahmer. This is just something little kids do, and it will pass, and eventually everyone will learn to “use their words” instead of their teeth. Avoid making a federal case out of something that is just a phase, and it will be easier for everyone.

3. Separation anxiety is the worst thing ever, but it will pass.

So. Many. Tears. I think I cried more than my daughter the first week of preschool, but eventually we all got over it and got used to the new routine. Most of the time children stop crying the second a parent is out of sight. I’ve seen this with my own eyes, so I know it’s not an urban legend.

4. Nobody else knows what they’re doing either.

It will seem like all the other parents know exactly where to go and what is going on and how to fill out forms and when to show up and where, but the truth is no one really does. We are all just winging it and hoping for the best. When you feel lost and out of place, just remember that everyone else feels that way too. Some people just hide it better.

5. You will be late.

Your darling offspring will try to thwart every effort made to be on time. It could be eating breakfast a molecule of oatmeal at a time, or refusing to get dressed within the span of an hour. There will definitely be “a bump” in a sock. Allow as much extra time as possible for unforeseen events, such as the existence of a tag in a t-shirt.

6. Your kid will eat food at school that they won’t eat at home.

There is no logical explanation for this, but I’ve talked to other parents and this is true across the board. Use it to your advantage. My daughter ate broccoli at school like it was chicken nuggets coated in honey. At home? She acts like I’m trying to feed her rat poison.

7. They will either be better at school or better at home.

Again, no logical explanation. My daughter was a hellion at school, but at home she’s an angel. I know lots of other kids who run their parents ragged, yet at school? Models of decorum. My theory is that children are trying to drive us all insane and this is part of a larger conspiracy.

8. It will appear as if the preschool is trying to parent-shame you about something.

Pay attention to this one. Preschool teachers and administrators usually have more experience in dealing with miniature human beings than you do, and they often know what works and what doesn’t. If they tell you there’s a problem or a concern, listen and learn, then follow up. Resist the urge to get defensive and try to stay open. This isn’t personal. Everyone wants what’s best for these little people so they can have a happy and healthy time in preschool and in life. Remember, no parent and no child is perfect. This is a chance to learn.

sending your toddler to preschool
Image Source: Victoria Fedden

9. The first time you see your child in a play is everything.

When I heard my 3-year-old daughter singing in a holiday performance, I realized I had officially found the meaning of life. In that moment every single second of agonizing nausea I experienced in the first trimester became worth it.

10. It’s okay to celebrate having some freedom.

Dance through the aisles of Target, free parents! Celebrate going to the grocery store joyously, marvelously ALONE! Go sit in a coffee shop and mess with your phone BY YOURSELF. You earned it. You deserve this downtime. Think of all those sleepless nights when you were up, desperate, with a wailing newborn. You dreamed of this moment and now it’s here! No guilt.

11. Pinterest is your new best friend.

No one is that creative. Crazy hair day? Need to make cute teacher gifts? Valentines got you stumped? It’s your day to bring snack? Pinterest is the answer to everything. Everything. I never heard of any of this stuff before my daughter went to preschool, but it’s ALL. ON. PINTEREST.

Letting go of your child for the first time is scary. Mistakes will be made. There will be tears and some of them (maybe ALL of them) will belong to you. Relax, expect a few bumps in the road (and in the socks), and the transition from toddler to full-fledged preschooler can be painless. Okay, maybe not painless, but definitely a little easier. Good luck!

Now if someone could give me some tips on what to expect in elementary school, that would be amazing …

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