Preschool Prep: Everything You Need for Your Little One’s First Day

It’s back to school time and parents with little ones are getting into preschool prep mode. Whether it’s your little one’s first time attending preschool or they are a veteran, the back to school scaries always find a way to creep up on us. There seems to be an endless checklist of all the things our kids “need” to be ready.  Worry no more! Here is a list of back to school items (both necessary and not) for your preschooler.

preschool girl sits on grass with Back to School sign and backpackEmotional Prep

Going to preschool is a big deal for both parents and children. As a child therapist, I always want to be aware of the emotional effects transitions and new experiences have on my children. For that reason, I am a big believer that mentally prepping my kids for school is just as important as physically prepping them.

My kids are big fans of Pete the Cat so when I found Pete the Kitty’s First Day of Preschool, I was excited to get it for them. Two other fun books to prep your little ones for preschool are The Night Before Preschool and Tyrannosaurus Wrecks.

For some kids, the anticipation of preschool can be overwhelming, bringing up feelings of worry or fear. The Kissing Hand does a great job assuaging those worries while also providing parents a strategy for combating first day fears.

Similar to The Kissing Hand, these Back to School Parent and Me Bracelets. are a great touchstone for your kids (and you) while they are at school.

Food Prep

I have to admit that I drank the Kool-Aid and now I love it. I’m talking about these Bentgo boxes. At first, I was like “I have to fill every slot and container with something different?! Who do you think I am?”. And then I realized that the Bento Box actually makes packing lunch both easier and more environmentally friendly – win, win.

Next up is the lunchbox. While I was a brown bag kid, I remember thinking how cool it was when other people had fun, colorful lunch boxes. I love the endless pattern choices of the Bentgo brand lunch bag(bonus points for the water bottle holder) and lunch boxes from mibasies. Pro tip: if your kids are anything like mine – screenshot pictures of five different styles for each kid to pick from. Otherwise, they will go down a rabbit hole of searching the endless options available.

Don’t forget the water bottles. I don’t remember being attached at the hip to my water bottle as a kid, but my kids treat their water bottles like a security blanket. And who can blame them in this heat. Never leave home without it. The Contigo Kids are my kids’ personal favorite, but bottles from Simple Modern are another great option.

Personalized silicone labels are a great way to label your water bottles. I love that the bands can come on and off so that my kids can swap water bottles without worrying whose name is on it. However, if sticker tags are more your style, these Stickers labels are a great option. Since these stickers are also washing machine safe, they have the added benefit of being able to be used on clothes.

Naptime Prep

While my oldest never napped at school, my youngest will start to this year. I have been searching napmats on Amazon and this Moonsea napmat is the one we decided to buy. Why did we pick this one? I have no idea other than it seemed like a good price, had good reviews, and my daughter loves elephants. Another great option with additional patterns is this Wildkin napmat.

You may want to include a stuffy or blanky if your child sleeps with one at home. Instead of toting the home stuffy back and forth, I recommend getting a “special new school friend”. This way you don’t have to worry about anything being left at home or school.

First Day Prep

Let’s not forget the first day photos opps! While this is definitely not required, it’s always fun to document the first day. The first step in the perfect first day photo is the outfit. Etsy had a TON of incredible t-shirt choices to pick from.

Another great way to personalize everything from shirts to backpacks to lunch bags is to have them professionally embroidered.

First day of school signs are a great way to have more fun with the photos. Signs can range from being as simple as a print-out from the school to as detailed and fun. This piece from Good Housekeeping is a great place to find various sign options. For those more creative parents, make your own sign. A few creative ways include using a chalkboard or pennant.

What are your best tips and products for preschool prep?

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Elyssa Gottheim
Elyssa was born and raised in Houston. Deciding to try out life in the cold weather, Elyssa attended University of Michigan for undergrad and University of Chicago for grad school. After obtaining her LCSW {licensed clinical social worker}, Elyssa decided that she was not cut out for the cold and moved back to Houston in 2012. Shortly after her move, Elyssa met her husband, Paul. Elyssa and Paul have been married for 6 years and have two children – Henry {October 2018} and Josephine {March 2021}. After working in schools, hospitals, and community clinics, Elyssa currently has a private practice where she specializes in working with children, adolescents, young adults, and parents. When she isn’t working or chasing after her kids, Elyssa’s favorite activities can be described as the ultimate mom cliché – baking, working out, and napping. Elyssa is a huge fan of trying new restaurants and dining spots especially if it involves any form of dessert!


  1. So glad to see support for Preschool parents! Great tips! As a private preschool owner I’d add that it’s important to label every single item you send in, this will be greatly appreciated by the teachers and keep things from being lost.


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