Secrets to Preschool Survival

What I wish veteran parents had told me when my first child started preschool.

My two children have been in preschool a combined four years.

Over the years they've done two-day, three-day, five-day, half-day, half-day + lunch bunch and full-day programs.

Which means I've made a heck of a lot of Rice Krispie treats.

But I've also learned a lot about preschool parents, expectations and school culture in this area. Here are the mom lessons I've learned that I wish someone had told me when my first child started.

  • No one minds a store-bought treat on party days. Only home bake if you love it and have time.
  • The world will not end if you forget to send in something for show-and-tell, the letter of the day or fail to dress your child in the appropriate color. No big whoop, you're still a great mom.
  • However, your life does depend on never ever ever forgetting the Big Four: a treat on your child's birthday, snacks when you're assigned, dressing your child in a costume on Halloween and Valentine's for the class on Valentine's Day.
  • Label everything. Even undershirts and socks. You never know when your kid may pee his pants or fully disrobe when playing dress up, and you probably want to see those $5 Gymboree daffodil socks again.
  • If your child is proudly writing her name, convince her to only sign her name on the "From" field on Valentines and goodie bags.  If you skip the "To" section, you'll save yourself hours of assisting her in spelling "Anastasia" and "Theodopolous".
  • If your child is writing his name but is too interested in his Legos to sign it 15 times, you can forge it yourself with your non-dominant hand. I won't tell. (And if your kid isn't writing yet, no one cares.)
  • Guard your school family phone/email directory and calendar as if diamond-encrusted, they'll save you throughout the year.
  • When there's a call for parent volunteers, sign up.  I know you're crazy busy, but just do it. You don't have to head a committee or dedicate hours and hours.  But if you participate and view the preschool as your community, not just your day care, your whole family will benefit.
  • The surest way to get your non-chatty kid talking about what he did at school that day? Ask what he had for snack and the floodgate will open.
  • They don't give out Perfect Attendance Awards in preschool, so don't try and win one: Never send your kid to school when sick. The other parents will thank you (and notice if you sneak in a sick kid.)
  • The teachers will appreciate all the gifts, chaperoning of field trips, assisting in the classroom and other involved-parent gestures that you provide. 
  • But the way to guarantee favorite parent status with the teachers and administration? Never ever be late to preschool pick-up.

Hope my vast years of experience are of help.

And if you're looking into preschool for your child next year, here are some Wheaton-area preschools accepting applications and hosting parent open houses this month!

Evergreen Montessori School – contact school to schedule individual visit

Silver Spring Learning Center (Hebrew immersion and secular options) – contact school for tour

St. John the Evangelist Catholic Preschool and K-8 Elementary – Open House on February 24, 8:30-11:30 a.m.

Silver Spring Day School (cooperative & non-co-op options) – contact school, application deadline for new families has been extended

St. Andrew the Apostle Catholic Preschool and K- 8 Elementary – Open House March 2, 9-11 a.m.

Har Tzeon-Agudath Achim Early Childhood Center (Jewish preschool program) - contact school for tour

Jessica McFadden is the author of the new parenting column at Wheaton Patch, Mom of a Million Mistakes. She is the mother of a 7-year-old son, an almost 5-year-old daughter, and she and her husband are expecting their third child this spring. She also writes about local activities for families at A Parent in Silver Spring.com.

LuluMom February 16, 2011 at 04:06 PM
All the financial planners out there talk about saving for college but not for preschool. The numbers for just sending kids to preschool, aftercare, and camp are just mind-boggling and there is little time to prepare. You don't think about saving for preschool right when you have baby or are pregnant, but you should.
Jessica McFadden February 16, 2011 at 04:07 PM
GREAT advice JustAMom!!! I think never comparing your kid to another kid (it's hard though!) and never pushing them too hard to learn at early ages (so as not to turn them off school) are important policies. (And so many veteran moms told me on the potty training thing "just wait til they're three" before going hard-core, and save yourself all the battles and clean up. And it worked!)
Karen February 17, 2011 at 01:46 AM
Terrific advice, the entire list brings welcome perspective to what's important in preschool! I especially love, "When there's a call for parent volunteers, sign up!" The website I started, VolunteerSpot.com makes it super easy for the room mom or teacher to ask for help with free online signup sheets. Everyone gets a turn to signup to read to the class, bring snack, or help on the field trip and auto-reminders help busy parents remember their commitments. Please check it out. http://www.VolunteerSpot.com
Thien-Kim Lam February 17, 2011 at 06:01 AM
Ok, I totally slacked on the Valentine cards this year! I was sick though. Great list!
Maura Moran February 19, 2011 at 12:16 AM
Great preschool advice! You have a real talent for wonderful writing that is always worth reading. I love your perspective! Thanks!!


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