Tips for Tots: Preparing for the start of school

By Anne A. McGrady

The start of school whether it be private or public, daycare, pre-K, public/private education means a big adjustment for everyone in the family. To ensure a happy, successful and healthy start for all, certain guidelines/routines to make a positive and memorable experience should be considered.


• Establish bedtimes – preschool and school age children should receive 10-11 hours of sleep nightly.  Sleep allows brain time, happier kids because of adequate sleep.

• Each evening prepare for the next morning routines. Clothing selection including shoes and socks should be placed out, book bags zipped, letters and homework included, lunches made in p.m./or decisions as to what will be for lunch or will lunch be purchased, weather attire should be in place to avoid a.m. confusion along with gym, dance days clothes.

• Each dinner meal – make a family commitment to eat together (no T.V.) at least 3-4 times weekly.  The key is to be together to discuss your child’s day and yours in a stress free environment.

• A large centrally located calendar should be used to help coordinate the start of school as well as all year.  Different ways of entering the activity and the child could be used – use different color markers for each child, young children could use dots or circles to indicate pre-school and activities.  Older children could print in event with their colored marker.  All children then feel a positive contribution to the calendar.

• Update all essential contact numbers – emergency contact phone numbers should be current and working numbers.

• Be prepared to serve your Tot a healthy breakfast or be sure to have Tot eat a healthy breakfast at school.

• Talk to your Tot about hygiene and how important hand washing skills are to your Tot and others.  Tots should wash their hands for as long as it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” or the “ABC Song”.  This will allow most of the germs to be washed away.

• Prepare an emergency kit for mornings to be kept in the car for last minute kid emergencies.  Equip the kit with ponytail holders, hairbrush, sewing kit, breath mints, breakfast bar and loose change.

• Always notify teacher/officer personnel at school if you will be out of town, give phone numbers and local contacts just in case an emergency develops.

• Make door know reminder list – organized by days of the week and jot down Mondays-sneakers, Tuesday-library books, etc.  Punch a hole at the top, thread a bright ribbon and hang on door knob going out the door everyone uses each morning.  Before leaving, check the reminder. 

• Before Tot leaves each A.M.- say something to boost your child’s self-esteem and confidence, be positive, reassuring and stick to your rules.

• Consider limiting children at the start of school to no more than two structured activities at the start of school.  Children involved in lessons, scouts, dances, sports, etc. could become burned out and stressed if they are involved in too many activities.  Gradually build up or every few months choose to try a new activity and drop one previously enrolled.

• Homework corner and a place for backpacks should be assigned.  This is the place all backpacks sit and thus homework will not be misplaced in the a.m. rush.  Make this area attractive with colorful pencils, paper desk sets – fun and inviting for all.


• Talk to your child about school. New friends, fun, learning, an exciting time. How important you are so grown up like your big brother and sister.

• Visit your school whether a new Kindergarten child or children in grades – attend school orientation – meet the teacher, principal, secretary and nurse and other students and parents in the same room. Tour the school.  You may even schedule a play date.

• Secure the school supply list and plan to take your child to the store to purchase items. Perhaps new school clothes can be purchased.  Involve your child.

• A week before have a trial run of the first day of school.  – dinner as a family, bed on time, routine of clothes selection, book bag with notes, etc., next a.m. wake up at time –dress and eat breakfast.  Have a practice run getting to the bus or school.  Then have fun that day – child oriented.)

=Enjoy the adventure!  Have fun!  Have a great first day of school!



Get Ready for Kindergarten!, by Sharon Hinchey, M.Ed., 4-6 years

(Have a happy kindergarten experience with everything your child- and you- need to know!  Reusable games, activity books, and hands-on learning pieces will encourage early learning skills.  Plus, a 96-page parent’s guide filled with pointers, suggestions, checklists, and frequently asked questions and answers will guarantee a successful year for both of you.)


Kindergarten Rocks!, by Katie Davis, Voyager Books

(Dexter already knows everything there is to know about Kindergarten and soon he will find out-Kindergarten rocks.)


A Place Called Kindergarten, by Jessica Harper, 2008, 4-6 years

(The animals on the farm are all excited.  Where is Tommy?  They then find out Tommy went on a big yellow bus to a place called Kindergarten.  Where is it?  What happens there?  Tommy goes to the barn to tell the animals about his first day of school.  Delightful!)


Tissue Please!, Lisa Kopelike, 4-6 years

(Good manners go a long way – a hilarious story about good/bad manners.)


A Boy Who Wouldn’t Share, Mike Reiss, Ages 4-6

(A story about sharing.)