While there's no formal preparation required for preschool there's nothing wrong with a little head start. Get your child familiar with some of the basics of preschool activity beforehand. You can do this by:
Your child will be expected to wait his or her turn and work or play with other kids at preschool, so whenever you get the chance, work on this at home. Try sharing the same doll and putting shapes into a box; or why not try working co-operatively when, for instance, laying the table - you hold the plates and your toddler puts them on the table.
Your child won't be expected to be able to read his or her name when he or she enters preschool, but knowing what the name looks like, and what letter it begins with can be of great help when so many things at preschool will be marked with it. Write your toddler's name on their pictures, on the fridge in magnetic letters, on the chalkboard, wherever it's possible to do so. Don't pressurise him or her to learn to recognise it at this stage however.
Filling a lunch box
If your child will be taking lunch to preschool, then pick out a bright and colorful new lunch box together - maybe one with his or her favorite storybook or cartoon characters on it. A few days before the first day at preschool start packing his or her lunch into the box and encourage your toddler eat from it at the kitchen table.
Encourage them to help with chores
If you haven't been teaching your child to help with simple chores, then now's the time to start. Begin with concentrating on tasks that he or she might be asked to help with at preschool, such as clearing the table, or hanging up coats.
Make following directions fun - try calling out several in a row, eg pick up that hairbrush, brush teddy's hair two times, give teddy a kiss and put him on the chair please. Again, don't be concerned if your child doesn't follow the directions consistently - he or she will probably take the staff at preschool much more seriously than you!
Children do have to make some decisions at preschool. Give them some practice by giving your toddler choices whenever possible. For example, "Do you want to play with your teddy or your building blocks?" "Do you want apple or banana?""Do you want cereal or toast for breakfast?"
Develop a structure
If your lifestyle tends to be of the spontaneous, unstructured kind, then start to incorporate some routine into your child's day in the weeks before he or she starts preschool to get them used to the idea of a routine day.
Arrange plenty of play dates in the weeks before preschool begins to increase your child's confidence with other children. But don't arrange too many - your child may grow tired of socialising before school even begins!
Remember - starting preschool should be a positive experience. If your preschool runs an adjustment period in which parents and caregivers can take part, then by all means do so, it will help your child to settle into this strange new environment. When the time does come to leave, don't sneak off without saying good-bye, even if this means tears. Make sure to tell your child when you'll return - and keep that promise. Leave with a happy smile that tells your toddler you're certain that she or he is going to have a great time!
Ellie Dixon lives in deepest rural Devon, England with her husband and two very large Newfoundland dogs. She is passionate about vintage illustrated children's books and loves to restore and edit them for today's kids to rediscover. Visit her website, Scruffy's Bookshop, to download some great books for pre-schoolers and older children, and while you're there sign up for her free monthly newsletter.