Sending your little one to preschool is a milestone that brings both joy and apprehension. Here at Dotty Fish the team are here to help you make this transition smooth and exciting. Here's everything you need to know to prepare your child for their new adventure. 
The summer holidays are a flying past and 'Back to School' advertising is in full swing. As a parent the summer holidays can be such a juggle and let's not even talk about the number of snacks our children eat. Summer holidays also provide a little window of time that is ideal for helping little ones practice the skills that will make their transition to preschool a little easier. It can be hard to watch them grow up and gain independence but when 30 little ones are all needing help getting their coats on and putting on their shoes you can see why these little tips and tricks can help with settling in and making that transition to preschool easier.  

Getting Dressed

Little boy wearing Dotty Fish shoes carrying his wellies

Getting a raincoat or jacket on can be a bit tricky if you are 3 and actually zipping it up or doing the poppers can be even harder. A cute little hack is to lay it on the floor with the hood facing your child. They simply put their arms in the holes and flip it over their head. The added bonus is they actually love doing this and they have their coat on in no time. Zips can be a bit harder to manage. Make sure to do lots of fine motor skills play with them to help them develop the muscles needed for this fiddly task. Playing with playdough, threading beads, posting things are all great options. 

Choose a coat that has a chunky zip that makes it easier to manage for small hands. Or one with poppers or very large buttons. During the holidays allow plenty of time for them to manage their coat alone with lots of support and encouragement. It can be tough watching them struggle but resist the urge to step in and do it for them. Also if it is slightly misaligned don't rush to fix it, these little milestones should be celebrated not corrected. 

Putting Shoes On

Young child learning to put shoes on

Choosing the right footwear for little children is important for their foot health and development and making sure their shoes fit well and allow their little feet room to spread and not restrict is critical. Avoid fashionable mini versions of adult shoes, while these look cute they are often not the best choice as first shoes. Avoid lace up ankle boots and shoes with complicated fastenings. Velcro is often the go to for young children's shoes, but laces are fine if you are prepared to show your child how to tie them. Slip-on shoes with elasticated sides are a good option. If your pre-school requires wellies, then ones with little handles can help your little one pull them on themselves. 
Learning which shoe goes on which foot can also be a challenge. A lovely little trick is to cut a sticker in half and stick it on the inside of the shoes so that when you put the shoes together,they match up. This is a very visual way to help your child work out which shoe to put on. Putting shoes on and taking them off is another skill that is great to teach them during the summer holidays and giving them plenty of practice is always a good start. 

Toilet Training

We all know that children develop at different rates and while a lot of pre-schoolers will be fully potty trained a few may not be. It is best to be honest with the setting so they know what to expect and can help your child when they start. The start of pre-school can feel like a deadline but your child will pick up on this tension and stress and it may well set things further back. By all means keep going and reinforce the potty training but know that your child will not be the only one who struggles in this area. There is a wealth of information about toilet training and you can find lots of helpful advice at  Even if your child is fully potty trained make sure you pack plenty of spare underwear and clothes. The new setting and unfamiliar layout may lead to a few accidents, especially in the early days. Also avoid complicated clothing, dungarees look really cute but they are a pain to get off when you have left it a little late because you didn't want to leave the small world tray full of dinosaurs. 
Another tip is to encourage good hygiene so that germs are kept to a minimum. Wiping their own bum can be challenging and teaching girls to wipe from front to back are all crucial. Flushing the toilet and washing your hands using soap and water are vital to help keep everyone safe in these settings. Using tissues and throwing them away is another step towards independence. 

Social Skills

Visit plenty of places that allow your child to mix with children of a similar age is great preschool preparation. Your local soft play centre may have sessions specifically for meeting with other children who are starting the same pre-school setting so have a look. And the local park near the setting may be filled with parents and children who are all going to be starting after the summer break. Try and allow your child to interact with these children and support them in making friends and playing co-operatively with them. By taking things like balls and bubbles to the park children are able to share their toys to enhance the enjoyment. A ball is much more fun when you have someone to kick it with and bubbles are a natural ice breaker with little ones. Saying things like "why don't we blow some bubbles for your new friends, and you can all catch them together" will show your child the joy in sharing playtime. 
Visit the library, not only is it a place filled with young children and parents from your local area but they will also have books that will deal with starting pre-school. Reading these together allows your child space to ask questions and talk about their worries. Don't dismiss these, acknowledge them and reassure. Talk about the routine, who will drop them off, who will be there to pick them up. If it is different people on different days remind them in the morning who is going to be picking them up. Talk about the daily routine and maybe practice walking or driving to the school a few times so they are familiar with the surrounding area. 

Lunch Time

Picky eaters are the norm at age 3 so a lot of pre-schools ask you to send in a packed lunch. You can find lots of lunch box ideas and pre-school tips for parents on the internet. If you are sending in something in a packet, make sure your child can open it themselves. Mealtimes can be busy and you don't want your child not eating something simply because they couldn't open it. It may be easier to get a little bento box and open the packets beforehand. This also allows you to buy in bulk and just add little bits at a time and saves on cost and packaging in the long run. Start as you mean to go on, if cutting sandwiches into heart shapes is something you can keep up then by all means do but if it is a one-off thing be prepared for a melt down when they open their lunchbox to triangles! Make sure that the lunch box you choose is easy for your child to open and help them learn how to pack it up again, so you don't get left over lunch all over their backpack. During the holidays plan a few picnics and take along similar lunch time items as you plan to put in their lunchbox so they are familiar with it all and can manage opening everything. Also don't be afraid to experiment, again sitting down at school with friends to eat can mean they branch out and try new foods. Well we can hope anyway! 

If your pre-school provides a meal and you are worried about your picky eater not eating anything you may be in for a shock. Children often eat a much more varied diet at school than they would at home. There is something about them all sitting down at the table with their key workers and teachers and gobbling up broccoli and beef stew when they will only eat plain pasta or chicken nuggets at home. If you are worried about what your child will eat then speak to the staff before they start. Allergies will be catered for but it is worth discussing how these are managed so you are not worried about cross contamination if your child has any allergies. 

And Smile...

Smiling little girl on her way back from pre-school

Be prepared for all the emotions in the run up to the first day and those first few weeks. Our little people are filled with big emotions that they often don't quite know what to do with. Mix that in with your own emotions as your child starts preschool and you know it isn't going to be the easiest time. Remember not to assume that everyone else is coping well. This is a big step for everyone and so acknowledge that and cut yourself some slack. Those photos of their first day will become treasured memories when you look back and see how big their backpacks are compared to them and how it all flew past so fast. As we always like to say "Every adventure starts with a first step." Here is hoping that this new pre-school adventure is full of learning, fun and friendship. 

Please do leave a comment if you have any other tips to share with our community and feel free to share this blog with friends and family who will benefit. 

Happy New Adventures,
The Dotty Fish Team