03/01/2013 07:13 pm ET Updated May 01, 2013

How to Prepare Your Child for Preschool

For some children, going to school for the first time can be an exciting yet scary notion. The most common fear for the child can be that their mom and dad are "never coming back." Having a positive attitude about your child going to school will help them to feel more comfortable.

Share as much information as you can with them about the new school. If the school they will be attending has a website, show them pictures and explain what they will be doing while there. An online preschool is a great way to introduce children to the preschool learning activities they will be doing in the classroom, and how get them accustomed to being on the routine of a consistent daily schedule.

Visiting the school and introducing your child to the teacher and classroom will help ease the fear of the unknown as well. Imparting information about the people involved can also be very helpful. Explain to your child that the teacher is there to answer any questions they may have or to help them with anything they may need. And giving information to the teacher about your child is just as important. For instance, if they have special words for things like going to the bathroom or their special stuffed animals, this would be very useful information to pass along; the more the teachers and school knows about your child, the more they will be able to comfort them.

When your child begin attending school, discuss it with them when they come home. Ask questions like "What was your art project today?" or "Who was the star of the week?" Specific questions like these are better than open-ended questions like "How was your day?" in that you are less likely to get the same response every day. Being excited about and involved in your child's education will help them to become lifelong learners - and they'll find themselves even more excited to learn new things at school.

Here are a few additional tips:

1) Create teachable moments. These can be done anytime and anywhere. This can be as simple as counting the crackers they may be eating for a snack, asking them to identify the color of the clothes they are wearing or even pointing out letters that they recognize on street signs. The idea is to utilize your everyday environment to introduce math, language and basic skills.

2) Involve your child in social situations. Joining a parent-child class or playgroup is a great way to slowly introduce them into a peer-group setting. It may also benefit you by introducing you to other parents and families. And if this is not practical, for whatever reason, you could simply take your child to a local park or playground -- a great way to easily introduce and involve them with other children.

3) "Practice" school. Enroll your child in an online preschool, read books about going to preschool, make an appointment to visit the preschool prior to starting. The more you reinforce this concept, the less scary it is likely to seem. Depending on the length of the program, you may also want to consider adjusting your child's eating and sleep schedule to coincide with the school's.

4) Allow your child to gain some independence. Some preschool programs may not allow sippy cups, bottles or pacifiers. Let your child practice using utensils to feed themselves and drink from a (shatterproof!) cup. Work with your child on simple, self-help skills, like getting dressed, putting on and taking off their own shoes, and practicing to take care of themselves in a bathroom situation (if your child is potty trained).

5) Half the battle is preparing yourself for your child's next steps. Speak positively about school. Let them know that, yes, although mom and dad will be leaving for a while, they will always come back. Explain the routine as well as you can in order to help give them some prediction on their day, i.e.: "Mom and dad will come back and get you after lunch."
Utilizing some of the above tips can greatly assist in preparing your little ones for the first steps of their educational journey. And you'd be surprised how much they can help you as well. Time well spent, I'd say.

Happy learning!