Checklist: What to Pack for the First Day of Preschool

Getting your kid ready for school can leave you feeling frazzled. Here’s your packing checklist, so you don’t forget a thing.
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profile picture of Ashlee Neuman
Content Director
August 23, 2021
little girl playing with blocks at pre-school

It’s actually happening—your little one is heading off to school! Dropping your child off at preschool can be stressful, of course, regardless of whether your tot has been in daycare for years or at home with a parent. But being fully prepared can go a long way in easing your anxiety.

If your child is enrolled in a preschool program, chances are you’ve already run through the preschool skills checklist to ensure your little one is developmentally ready. It’s also smart to establish a relationship with the school early on, says Jaclyn Carnazza, owner and director of Kids Connect in Montville, New Jersey. That might be scheduling a time to tour the school with your child, so they can see where they’ll be spending their days, or even letting your little one spend a couple hours in the class to see how they do when separated from you. Last but not least, you’ll need to stock up all the essentials your child will need for that first day of school. (Don’t forget to label everything with your child’s name!)

The school will likely provide a checklist of things to bring, but here are the usual items you’ll want to pack for the first day of preschool:

1. Backpack

Not only can you pack your child’s backpack with the day’s necessities, but the teachers can also use it to send home artwork and school notices.

2. Lunch and snacks

Pack plenty of snacks so your kid doesn’t go hungry! You may have to come up with some nut-free options, depending on the school’s food policy.

3. Milk or juice

Unless the school provides it, you’ll need to send drinks along with any meals and snacks.

4. Spill-proof water bottle

Whether it’s a sippy cup or simply something spill-proof, pick a water bottle your child can easily open on their own. They’ll need to stay hydrated with all that running around!

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5. Extra set of clothes and socks

Preschoolers aren’t known for their careful cleanliness, so pack an extra (seasonally appropriate) outfit, including a second pair of socks. Don’t forget to also pack a resealable plastic bag your child’s teacher can use for dirty clothing!

6. Extra underwear

Even if your child is potty-trained, accidents are bound to happen.

7. Extra masks

Face masks will likely be with us for a while as scientists work to uncover more about the coronavirus. Depending on the program’s policies, you’ll likely want to pack extra masks to keep your child protected—after all, what with messy meals and hands-on crafts, your kiddo’s face covering is bound to get soiled at some point in the day.

8. Diapers, wipes and cream

If your little one isn’t quite ready for the potty, you’ll need to send along a plentiful stash of diapers, wipes and diaper cream.

9. Seasonal outerwear

Lots of preschools let the kids enjoy some time outdoors, so pay attention to the weather. Chilly outside? Send your kid in with a coat and gloves. Sunny? Pack a hat.

10. Indoor shoes

Check your school’s policy, since some programs prefer kids to wear indoor-only shoes or grippy slippers in the classroom to keep things clean.

11. Nap time essentials

Some classrooms are equipped with cots, while others ask parents to send a nap mat, sheet and blanket. Ask what should be on your list.

12. Comfort item

Packing your child’s favorite stuffed animal or other comfort item, like a lovey, can help ease preschool jitters. Tip: If forgetting said comfort item at school would lead to a full-blown bedtime disaster, have one for home and one for school, or pick a second-favorite item to pack.

13. Art supplies

If the school doesn’t supply them, you may need to pack a smock, box of crayons, glue sticks and the like.

14. Sunscreen

Whether it’s winter or summer, the sun’s strong rays can still wreak havoc. You’ll want to make sure your child brings sunscreen with them to school for reapplication as the day goes on.

15. Any necessary medication

Alert the school ahead of time if your child needs any daily medication or has any allergies.

Starting preschool can be tough, for you and your child. But the good news is it’ll get easier, fast. “If a preschool is providing an appropriate environment, which begins with loving, nurturing teachers and caregivers, I promise the adjustment period will take no longer than two weeks, when kids will be excited to enter the classroom and engage with their peers!” Carnazza says.

Image: Laura Pursel
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