Is it just us or are you also thinking: how is it already August?!
As much as we might want to hang out by the pool for just a few more days… It’s time to trade in those bathing suits for some leggings and grab that cute planner you bought earlier this summer – yes, that one!
Now, let’s be completely honest, the first day of preschool isn’t just a day. Everyone is coming back from that summer mindset and things can and will get overwhelming. It’s important to accept that and be okay if things don’t go 100% according to plan.
That said, kicking things off on the right foot is key to setting the tone for a good school year for the kiddos, parents, and staff. Doing this right is the result of a healthy combination of planning ahead, good communication and having a sense of humor.
While there are a ton of articles out there to prepare parents and the kiddos for their first day, there’s little content out there to help early childhood professionals and even less supporting directors.
Don’t worry, you’re not alone. We’ve put together a list of everything that you’ll need to survive the first day of preschool. So, let’s get to it!
Get Your Child Care Organized
Let’s start with planning. Being proactive with mapping out your first day will make the difference between containing fires and putting them out. This isn’t to say that you’re supposed to be doing everything, though! Make sure that your staff and parents have clear direction on schedule, supplies and space.
Make sure that each room has a schedule and that all teachers and parents have access to it. Send it out electronically either via email or a child care app so that parents can easily reference their schedule should they need to. Print it out and have it up in the classroom for extra measure too so parents that missed the memo can take a picture of it.
Everyone should have a clear idea of when drop-off and pick-up is. It’s helpful to build in a bit of a buffer for in your transition times to account for some flexibility should a family arrive late or have trouble leaving.
Send your parents a “First Day Of Preschool Checklist” so that their kiddos have everything they need. Just as you are preparing for the big day, so are the parents! This gives parents an idea of what they need to pack for their child and takes the administrative burden off of your teachers.
- Water bottle
- Lunch & snacks
- Spare clothes & underwear
- Diapers, wipes & cream
- Seasonal outerwear
- Indoor shoes
- Naptime essentials
- Comfort item
- Art supplies
- Individual needs – any medication
You can create this document once and reuse it every year – be sure to send it out at least 2 weeks before school starts so that parents have ample time to get ready!
If you, like me, are a believer in the fact that you can’t be overprepared, send home some tips to parents like labeling their children’s things with their names so that they can be easily identified.
Now let’s talk about supporting your teachers, especially your new hires that might be as nervous about this big day as your parents. Not you, you got this!
Just as a clear schedule is helpful for everyone to get on the same page, creating an organized classroom is key for teachers to channel this flow. Make sure that everything is labeled so that anyone on staff can pop into the room and find what they need in a pinch. Yes, now is the time for that label maker to shine baby, shine!
Having a simple and accessible system will give your teachers the confidence to lead their classroom through all those (oh so important) transitions. Nametags can be a lifesaver on the first day of child care as everyone is getting acquainted with each other. This will help everyone on your team identify the new kiddos and ensure their safety during transition and dismissal time!
Having a structured space and schedule to fall back on will give your staff this thing called flow and create a comfortable environment to ease any anxious nerves!
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
Now that you’re organized, the next step is to make sure that everyone is on the same page for the big day.
Send out a Welcome Letter to get people (even more) excited about the big day. Make sure that the schedule is available ahead of time. And have all contact information accessible in case of emergencies.
In this case, it’s better to overcommunicate so that everyone knows where to go should they need something. All this is to minimize the questions that parents and teachers might have on the first day. A good rule of thumb is to make things as simple as possible.
In line with communication, make sure that new parents have met the lead and assistant teachers of their kiddo’s classroom. There should be minimal surprises on the first day of daycare and a sense of community is key to ensuring that the child’s experience at your center is off to a good start.
It’s also great to create some space for parents to connect with their peers and make some friends! Remember, new parents are often as anxious as their kiddos on their first day. Send out some survival tips for parents to help with possible separation anxiety – it is a huge milestone after all!
Empower Your Child Care Staff
Okay, everything is labeled and everyone (hopefully) knows what to expect. What next? Check in with your superstar team.
Get them pumped for the first day and make sure that they have everything they need to function at peak performance. Give them props for getting their rooms in tip-top condition. Have some coffee available for them in the staff lounge. Pair new hires with seasoned veterans so that this day will also be a great learning opportunity.
All that’s left is to take on the day!
Once the last child has been picked up, take a quick moment to thank everyone on your team for making the day a huge success. If there were any mishaps, well, tomorrow is a new day and you’ve learned from it. It’s important to keep your attitude positive and quite frankly, the most important thing is that everyone had a good day.
So, what do you think? Are you ready for the big day? Do you have your own tips to share? Let us know in the comments and share this with a Director that will find this article useful.
Take this fun quiz to see if you’re really ready for the first day of preschool!