What You Need Before Sending Your Child to Preschool for the First Time

Illustration of school room

Verywell / Bailey Mariner

As the world starts opening up again, you may be thinking about your childcare options. Many parents will soon be going to an office for the first time since having a baby. Sending your young child to a preschool (or daycare) program can be overwhelming. Not only is the change going to be an adjustment, but there could also be some separation issues for both the parent and the child, especially since many families have been together 24/7 for over a year.

One way to make the transition as smooth as possible is by knowing what you need before sending your child off into the world. Being prepared makes everything easier, and we’re here to help you, whether your child is two months or two years old.

One first step is to schedule a video or in-person meeting with your child’s teacher or caregiver. They can give you a rundown of the daily schedule, and what your child will need. They can also provide helpful information, like if the school is nut-free.

Here are some things you’ll need before sending your child to daycare or school for the first time.

Lunch Supplies

While some programs do offer lunch and snacks, with others, you’ll need to send food from home. If your program requires you to provide food, you’ll need the following.

A bento-style lunchbox with separate sections, a possible second lunch box for snacks, a water bottle, ice packs, and snack bags of your choice. That could be plastic bags, paper bags, reusable silicone pouches, or BPA-free plastic or stainless steel containers. Certain establishments will refrigerate lunch boxes, but few will reheat or microwave meals to minimize the risk of food being too hot.

With some programs lasting a full day, it’s helpful to have shelf-stable, room temperature snacks in your arsenal that are both delicious and nutritious. Freeze-dried fruit, applesauce pouches, pretzels, and crackers are all options that don’t require heating or cooling. If you want to send warm food, you may also want to invest in a thermos.

Using your snack container of choice to send in crackers or snack mix that you buy in bulk will be more cost-effective than purchasing preportioned snack bags.

Be sure to ask if your facility provides milk or formula for younger children, or if the parents are expected to provide it.

Name Stickers or Stamps

This is one of the most important things to have on hand before starting a daycare or preschool program. Since the stickers are personalized, they can take between one and three weeks to produce and ship. You’ll need to label everything—from clothes to shoes, to water bottles to sunscreen, so stock up. Keep a few permanent markers on hand to label food pouches or other small items.

Clothes & Shoes

Most day cares or toddler programs will require you send in two to three extra sets of clothes in case of a bathroom accident, or if the child spills something like water or paint.

Some daycares also require “indoor-only” shoes that are kept at their facility to minimize the transfer of germs from outside.

Be aware of seasonal items your child will need if they go outside, like hats and gloves in the winter.

Health & Safety

Most facilities require diapers and wipes to be provided, or you can purchase them for an extra cost. You may also need to send in diaper rash cream.

In the summer, you’ll need to provide sunscreen, and possibly bug spray. Your program may require a consent form for any medication or topicals to be administered as well. Be sure to ask.

You will also need multiple face masks for your child, most likely, until younger kids are approved to be vaccinated.

Napping Necessities

If your child is napping while at daycare or school, you may want to look into sleeping bags or nap mats. You’ll also need an extra blanket, and your child favorite’s lovey. With COVID-19, some programs will wash these items in-house, and they must stay at the facility.

A Backpack

Finally, you’ll need a bag or backpack. Since even the best children’s backpacks are quite small, you may need a tote bag to hold the “excess,” especially if you’re sending in multiple lunch boxes, extra clothes, and napping necessities.

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