How to Get a Toddler Ready for Preschool

Preparing a toddler for preschool can be an exciting and challenging journey for both parents and children alike.

This critical stage involves ensuring that a child is emotionally, socially, and cognitively prepared to face the new experiences awaiting them in a preschool setting.

By understanding the key strategies and milestones required for preschool preparedness, parents can provide the essential support and guidance that will help their child successfully transition to this new educational environment.

One of the primary concerns for most parents is understanding how to address the emotional aspects of preschool readiness. This involves actively listening to a child’s worries and providing reassurance, which can significantly impact their overall experience in preschool.

Another important aspect is evaluating a child’s speech and cognitive development, as preschoolers typically speak in simple sentences of three to five words, and can describe events that have happened recently.

By paying attention to these key areas, parents can gain insights into their child’s readiness for preschool and take necessary steps to ensure a smoother transition.

Some practical preparations for preschool include visiting the school with the child beforehand to familiarize them with the environment, and arranging playdates with future classmates when possible.

By taking these proactive measures, both parents and children alike can feel more confident and prepared for the exciting world of preschool.

Assessing Child’s Development

Developmental Milestones

When preparing a toddler for preschool, it’s essential to assess their development and ensure they are achieving key developmental milestones. These milestones are markers that indicate a child’s progress in various areas, such as cognitive, social, emotional, and physical development.

Parents and caregivers may use resources like the CDC’s developmental monitoring and screening guidelines to track and evaluate their child’s progress.

Some examples of developmental milestones that are relevant to preschool readiness include:

  • Using simple sentences with three to five words
  • Understands and follows simple instructions
  • Shows interest in playing with other children
  • Begins to demonstrate independence in self-care tasks, such as dressing or using the restroom

Preschool Age

Typically, children are considered ready for preschool between the ages of 3 and 5. Age is not the sole factor in determining preschool readiness; developmental and emotional factors also play a crucial role.

Parents should consider their child’s developmental milestones and emotional well-being, such as the ability to manage separation anxiety, when deciding if their child is ready to attend preschool.

If a child has any developmental or behavioral concerns, early intervention can be beneficial, and parents are encouraged to consult with their pediatrician.

School Readiness

School readiness is a measure of a child’s preparedness to start preschool and involves various aspects of their development. Assessing school readiness includes evaluating:

  • Language and communication skills: The child should be able to communicate in simple sentences and describe recent events, like a trip to the library or a visit to the zoo (Verywell Family).
  • Emotional and social skills: The child should be able to manage separation from parents or caregivers and establish positive relationships with peers and teachers.
  • Cognitive skills: The child should demonstrate a basic understanding of concepts like colors, shapes, and numbers.

Parents can help build their child’s school readiness by engaging them in age-appropriate activities, including games, stories, and discussions about their experiences. Preparing a child for preschool also involves addressing any separation anxiety they may feel and reassuring them that preschool is a fun and safe environment to learn and grow.

Preparing for Preschool

Establishing Routines

Establishing routines before your child starts preschool can help ease the transition process. Teach your toddler about daily routines, such as waking up, eating breakfast, and getting dressed.

Create a consistent bedtime routine to ensure they get enough sleep. In addition, practice saying good-bye to mommy and/or daddy, as this separation can be challenging for some children. You can use pretend play, as suggested by Zero to Three, to help your child become familiar with preschool routines.

Fostering Independence

Fostering independence in your toddler can help prepare them for preschool. Work on developing self-help skills, such as putting on their coat, using the restroom, and cleaning up after themselves. Encourage your child to make simple choices, like choosing their snacks or clothes.

According to Verywell Family, preschool-ready children should be able to speak in simple sentences of three to five words and understand other people.

Building Social Skills

Developing social skills is essential for preschool readiness. Encourage your child to interact with peers through playdates and other social activities. Teach them how to share, take turns, and use good manners.

By starting early, your child will know what to expect in a preschool setting, as mentioned by Parents.

Visiting the Preschool

Before the first day of preschool, visit the school with your child, as recommended by UNICEF Parenting. Play on the playground together and explore the classroom, so that the school feels familiar to your toddler.

This visit can also be an opportunity for your child to make new friends and become comfortable with the preschool environment.

Emotional Preparation

Addressing Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety is a common challenge for toddlers starting preschool. To help your child cope with this, build up their confidence and trust in that environment.

One way to do this is by visiting the preschool together beforehand and exploring the classroom and playground, making the space more familiar on their first day.

You can also teach your child coping strategies to use when upset, such as taking deep breaths, counting to ten, or blowing out pretend candles.

Gradually exposing them to short periods of separation before starting preschool can also be beneficial in building their confidence.

Encouraging Emotional Expression

Help your toddler understand and express their emotions through:

  • Pretend play: Engage in role-playing activities with your child, acting out various situations that they might encounter in preschool. This can include good-byes, circle time, reading stories, or playing outside as suggested by UNICEF Parenting.
  • Communication: Encourage open communication with your child about how they feel. Reassure them that it is normal to have mixed emotions and that they are not alone.
  • Developing empathy: Help your child develop empathy by teaching them to recognize emotions in others, e.g., through observing facial expressions in books or real life. Talk about how different emotions may feel, and why others might be experiencing them.

Creating an emotionally supportive environment for your toddler to express and process their feelings is crucial in preparing them for the transition to preschool.


Skills and Traits for Success

Potty Training

One of the key skills for preschool readiness is being potty trained. Most preschools and early childhood education centers require or strongly encourage that a child be potty trained before starting. This is important not only for practical reasons but also helps develop a child’s sense of independence. Parents can support their toddlers through this process by establishing routines and showing patience as children learn to navigate this new skill.

Following Directions

Another essential skill for success in preschool is the ability to follow directions. This means children should be able to listen to their teachers and carry out simple instructions. Teaching toddlers to follow directions at home can foster their ability to succeed in a preschool setting. Parents can start by giving age-appropriate directions and gradually increasing the complexity as their child develops.


Transitions are a crucial part of the preschool day, as children move from one activity to the next. It’s essential to help toddlers learn how to manage these transitions, as they will need to adapt to changing situations in preschool. Encourage your child to practice transitions by establishing routines at home, such as moving from playtime to mealtime or from a quiet activity to a more energetic one.


Concentration is a vital skill for preschool success. Children who can focus on a task or activity for an appropriate amount of time are better equipped for learning and development. Parents can support the development of concentration through engaging activities like reading together, playing games, and providing opportunities for toddlers to explore their interests.


Stamina is not only important for physical activity but also for maintaining focus and interest throughout the day in a preschool environment. Developing stamina in preschoolers encompasses both physical and mental aspects. Parents can help build stamina by encouraging regular physical activity, providing stimulating activities that challenge their child’s cognitive abilities, and fostering a healthy sleep routine.

Creating a Supportive Environment

As you prepare your toddler for preschool, it’s essential to create a supportive environment that encourages learning, social interactions, and emotional stability. In this section, we will discuss two critical components of building a supportive environment: Engaging in Playdates and Promoting Early Learning.

Engaging in Playdates

Playdates offer a valuable opportunity for toddlers to develop social skills and learn to interact with their peers. They help children become more comfortable with the idea of attending preschool by providing a fun and safe space for socialization.

  • Arrange playdates with other families to encourage interaction among children of similar ages. This way, they can learn to share, take turns, and communicate effectively.
  • Consider hosting playdates at different locations, such as playgrounds or community centers. This exposes children to new environments and helps them adapt to various settings similar to those of a preschool.
  • During playdates, allow children time to explore, play, and learn together without excessive parental intervention. This enables them to develop problem-solving skills and greater independence.

Promoting Early Learning

Creating an environment rich in learning opportunities is crucial for preparing a child for preschool. This can be achieved by incorporating educational materials and activities that stimulate cognitive development and curiosity.

  • Provide educational toys and games to foster critical thinking, such as puzzles or shape sorters. These activities encourage early problem-solving and cognitive skills.
  • Introduce basic concepts like letters, numbers, and colors through fun and interactive play. For example, use magnetic letters on your refrigerator or engage your child in counting games while preparing meals together.
  • Music and storytelling also play a significant role in early learning. Share songs and read stories to help develop your child’s language skills, listening abilities, and creative thinking.

By focusing on both social development and early learning, you can create a supportive environment for your toddler to thrive in as they transition to preschool.

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About the author
Henry is a father of 2 boys, musician and expert on all things parenting-related. As a dad, he's experienced the joys and challenges of raising children first-hand, and he's passionate about sharing his insights to help others.

How to Get a Toddler Ready for Preschool

How to Get a Toddler Ready for Preschool