Preparing Your Toddler for Formal Care or Preschool

September 14, 2023 | 6 min read

Starting preschool, kindergarten, or daycare is a momentous adventure in a child's life! It's the kickoff to a new chapter, filled with exploring new places, making new friends, and diving into exciting learning quests. And hey, it's not just children who get all the feels—parents might experience a rollercoaster of emotions too, from exhilaration to worry to a touch of nostalgia as they witness their little ones grow up in a flash! 

Preparing for this transition can be a bit overwhelming with so many things to consider - from making sure your little one has reached important milestones to gathering up all those school supplies. But fear not! We've got you covered with this preparing-for-school checklist. It's your guide to conquering this exciting yet challenging phase of life.

Our checklist has all the essentials for your little one's adventure, kindergarten, or daycare. But hey, every child is one-of-a-kind, so feel free to make it your own. Customize it based on their unique needs and pace of growth. Remember, the aim is not to check off every item but to embrace the journey into their new chapter. Let's make it an easier transition! 

Developmental Milestones to Reach Before Formal Care

Communication Skills 

Communication is key! It's how we express our thoughts, needs, and feelings. For children, having solid communication skills can help them better articulate their thoughts and emotions to teachers and peers. This includes both verbal and non-verbal cues like gestures, facial expressions, and body language. By developing these skills, your child can effectively participate in classroom activities and discussions, enhancing their learning experience.

Social Skills 

Social skills are so important because they enable children to interact effectively with others, form friendships, and work together as a team. These skills include sharing, taking turns, and showing empathy towards others, all of which contribute to a harmonious classroom environment. Plus, having good social skills often leads to increased self-esteem and a positive attitude towards school.

Cognitive Skills 

Our brains are like supercomputers, constantly processing information and solving problems. Cognitive skills are essential for your child's academic success. They involve memory, attention, logic, reasoning, and problem-solving abilities. These skills fuel your child's curiosity and love for learning, helping them understand new concepts, solve problems, and think critically. Developing cognitive skills early on sets the stage for lifelong learning.

Being a new parent can feel overwhelming, but there are countless resources available to support you during this exciting time! From online communities to local resources, there's something for everyone. Learn more from @NEChildrensHome:
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Physical Development 

Time to get moving! Physical development is all about fine and gross motor skills. Fine motor skills involve smaller movements like holding a pencil or buttoning a shirt, while gross motor skills involve larger movements like running or jumping. Both are vital for your child's independence and participation in various school activities, from writing and drawing to playtime and sports. Plus, physical activity is great for overall health and well-being!

Self-Help Skills 

Last but certainly not least, self-help skills! These are the skills that allow your child to take care of themselves independently. This includes tasks like eating, dressing, cleaning up after themselves, and even using the restroom. Mastering these skills not only boosts your child's confidence but also helps them navigate their school day smoothly.

Remember, every child develops at their own pace. Be patient, offer encouragement, and celebrate every milestone along the way!

At-Home Preparation for School

The preparation for your child's transition into preschool, kindergarten, or daycare starts right at home. Here's how you can help your kiddo get ready:

Readiness Activities 

Just like a pre-workout warm-up, readiness activities help to flex those learning muscles. They're simple, fun activities that you can incorporate into your daily routine to help your child develop essential skills. For example, puzzles can enhance problem-solving abilities, storybooks can improve language skills, and craft activities can boost fine motor skills. Readiness activities are not just about learning; they're also a great way to spend quality time with your little one.

Behavior Management 

School is a community where everyone needs to respect and consider each other. That's why behavior management is so crucial. It helps children understand appropriate behaviors in a school setting, such as listening when someone else is speaking, following instructions, and behaving respectfully toward others. You can introduce these concepts at home through role-play activities or by setting examples in your daily interactions.

Introduction to School Routine 

A sneak peek into the school routine can do wonders in easing your child's transition. Introduce concepts like circle time, snack time, playtime, and nap time at home. This will help your child understand what to expect at school, reducing anxiety and resistance. Plus, having a routine fosters a sense of security and helps children manage their time effectively.

Consistent Bedtime Routine 

A consistent bedtime routine ensures your child gets enough sleep, which is vital for their physical health, mood, and cognitive functioning. Establish a calming routine that includes activities like reading a bedtime story, brushing their teeth, and saying goodnight to everyone. Not only does this signal to your child that it's time to sleep, but also helps them wake up refreshed and ready for school.

Morning Routine 

Rise and shine! A structured morning routine can set the tone for the rest of the day. It can include activities like getting dressed, brushing teeth, having breakfast, and packing the school bag. Having a routine helps avoid morning chaos and teaches your child responsibility and time management.

After-School Routine 

After a busy day at school, children need time to unwind, process their day, and recharge for the next. An after-school routine can include a healthy snack, some downtime, homework or reading time, and outdoor play. This routine provides structure, helps your child transition from school to home, and balances work and play.

Remember, routines should be flexible and adapt to your child's needs. The key is to make them predictable yet enjoyable!


There you have it - a simple guide to help your little one make a smooth transition into preschool, kindergarten, or daycare. It's an exciting journey, and with the right preparation, it can be a joyous and enriching experience for both you and your child.

Remember, every child is unique, and all progress at their own pace. This journey is not a race; it's about nurturing a love for learning, fostering independence, and building skills that will last a lifetime.

To help you navigate this exciting phase, we've compiled a checklist covering all the essential milestones and preparation activities. This ready-to-use tool is designed to provide you with a roadmap, making the preparation process more manageable and less overwhelming.

Get a head start on your child's educational journey by downloading our helpful checklist now.