Starting the journey to school is an exciting, life-changing experience for our little ones. As parents, we want our children to enjoy preschool, make lots of friends, and build the foundations for success in later years. Parents get a jump start by helping their child develop social skills and foundations for learning.

Tips for parents to help their children start out the school year strong
  1. Building positive social relations begins at home.  Parents are their child’s first model for what constitutes appropriate ways to interact.  Be conscious of what your child is doing and comment on what you like about their behavior.  Comment on what you are doing that illustrates positive behaviors.  Children don’t always know which behaviors we are modeling.
  2. Set up play dates with children from the child’s class before school starts.  This will ensure that the child knows someone in the class with whom he or she can interact.  If this is not possible, soon after school starts ask your child to pick someone to invite over to play.   When peers are present, stay close by so you can help with social problem solving if needed.  You want to model how to think about social conflicts.
  3. Help develop your child’s sense of autonomy.  Children who can function independently do well in school.  Parents can encourage autonomy by having the expectation that children can accomplish tasks without help.  It is sometimes difficult to let your little one carry their own plate to the sink, put away groceries, or wash their own hair.  But we all learn through practicing skills. Allow children to do dressing and other self-care tasks on their own.  Even if results are not perfect, the child is building self-help skills as well as pride in their accomplishments.
  4. Set goals to help children develop independent thinking. Help children make a plan for what they want to do. When children are thinking about or starting an activity, ask about the child’s plan. Just making the suggestion to think about a plan can stimulate the child’s thinking about a goal.
  5. Persistence is a valuable trait that supports independent functioning.  Children who persist in the face of challenge and difficulty are more likely to be successful in school and in life.  Children can learn to be persistent.  Parents can support the development of this trait by rewarding effort.  Instead of always saying, “Good job” for everything the child does, start saying, “I love how hard you are working on that!”  Children need to know that hard work pays off.  Children are too often reinforced for their product, rather than the effort they made.
  6. Ability to follow directions is a valuable skill.  To follow directions children need to attend, listen, and process the information given.  Children should be able to follow at least a two-step direction.
  7. Preschool should be a fun, exciting adventure!  Children pick up on their parents’ attitudes and feelings.  Even if you have qualms about your child going off to school, the capability of the teacher, or the quality of the school, do not share these concerns with your child. Be positive about what school will be like.  Talk about making new friends, playing with different toys and materials, learning lots of interesting things, reading books, and playing on the playground.  Avoid saying about how much you will miss your child. Instead, point out how after school you will look forward to hearing about what happened that day.  This will reassure your child that you are happy and will be there awaiting him or her.

Preschool should be an exciting time for both children and parents.  Make sure you enjoy this time. It passes so quickly. Communicate often with your child’s teacher and follow through with fun games and activities at home that reinforce learning at school.

About the Author


Dr. Toni Linder is a leader in the field of early childhood development and early childhood special education. She works with children of diverse backgrounds and ability levels, including children that are gifted and talented, who have disabilities or come from backgrounds of poverty, and those from multicultural backgrounds.