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Here’s how to make preschool the best experience for your child—and yourself

When I sent my first child to Pre-K, every step of the process felt nerve-wracking. Despite the fact that I have an advanced degree in child development, the preschool transition was bewildering.


You probably already know that preschool, or Pre-K, has great benefits for children—they learn to get along with others, follow the routines of a classroom, and explore a world of new learning opportunities. But how can you find a good program and make it work for your child?

There are things you can do before, during, and after your child’s transition to making Pre-K the best experience possible.

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Before you outfit your child with her first backpack, look for the right preschool or Pre-K program. The two terms are often used synonymously, although Pre-K typically refers to programs that serve three- and four-year-olds in public schools or city-run programs. Programs vary wildly in quality, and studies show that children only benefit from high-quality classrooms.

To check out a program’s quality, try to visit during school hours so that you can see how teachers interact with the children. That will tell you almost everything you need to know—some programs emphasize their fancy facilities or expensive decor, but those things actually don’t matter much for children’s learning.

What does matter is that the teachers...

  • Seem enthusiastic and happy to be there
  • Encourage kids to be curious
  • Ask them about their ideas
  • Talk about letters and numbers without drills or tests
  • Allow kids to touch and explore things
  • Hang children’s artwork on the walls
  • Remain positive and nurturing, even when children are acting out

Good teachers have consistent routines, crouch down to be at eye-level with little ones, explain why the rules keep everyone safe and give guidance about what to do rather than what not to do

Parents sometimes ask me if their children are ready for Pre-K. That’s an individual decision for each family (often it is the parent who doesn’t feel ready), but there is no specific set of skills children need. After all, developing social, emotional and cognitive skills are the goal of preschool!

But you can help get your child off to a good start by encouraging their self-regulation skills, like expressing their feelings in words, sharing and being kind, and trying to wait for their turn. No young child has mastered those skills, but it’s helpful to introduce them. The most important thing is to get your child ready and excited for the idea of school. Take them for a visit, play school with them at home, and read books.

Transitions are a process, not a one-time event, and it’s helpful to know how the school handles them. Good teachers know that transitions are challenging for children and parents, and they don’t view parents’ worries as an imposition.

I remember my son’s preschool director calling me fifteen minutes after drop-off on day two to tell me that he had stopped crying as soon as I left; that call was a lifesaver.

After you and your child have settled in, stay connected. You’re being helpful, not pushy, if you provide information about your child, like how they deal with meeting new kids, or if they haven’t been sleeping well.

If you have a concern or are curious about something, bring it up and try to work together with the teacher to find an answer. Telling the teacher what to do is intrusive, but asking her to help solve a problem is not.

You can reinforce what your child is learning by finding out what they’re doing at school. Ask teachers questions like, “What are you focusing on with the kids right now?” or, “Does Will seem to love a particular book?” Ask your child questions, too, like, “What songs did you sing during circle today?” and, “What are you excited about doing tomorrow?”

Some children don’t like to talk about their school day, and that’s ok. You can also get clues by encouraging them to play teacher, or asking them to show you one of their favorite games from school.

Before, during, and after the transition, preschool should be fun.

Many days I wished I could stay in my son’s classroom and drive trucks through paint instead of going to work. The joy we all felt was how I knew we had found a good program. In time, my son would learn to read, ride a bike, and devour math. But those later accomplishments were built on a foundation of learning to love school and relish learning—a foundation that was built in preschool.

14 outdoor toys your kids will want to play with beyond summer

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

With Labor day weekend in the rearview and back-to-school in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

$30

Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!

$75

Detective set

Plan Toys detective setDetective Set

This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.

$40

Wooden doll stroller

Janod wooden doll strollerWooden Doll Stroller

Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.

$120

Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.

$30

Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

$100

Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

$40

Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

$121

Wooden rocking pegasus

plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.

$100

Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.

$45

Wooden digital camera

fathers factory wooden digital camera

Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.

$179

Wooden bulldozer toy

plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.

$100

Pull-along hippo

janod toys pull along hippo toy

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.

$33

Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.

$88

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Time-saving formula tips our editors swear by

Less time making bottles, more time snuggling.

As a new parent, it can feel like feeding your baby is a full-time job—with a very demanding nightshift. Add in the additional steps it takes to prepare a bottle of formula and, well… we don't blame you if you're eager to save some time when you can. After all, that means more time for snuggling your baby or practicing your own well-deserved self-care.

Here's the upside: Many, many formula-feeding mamas before you have experienced the same thing, and they've developed some excellent tricks that can help you mix up a bottle in record time. Here are the best time-saving formula tips from editors here at Motherly.

1. Use room temperature water

The top suggestion that came up time and time again was to introduce bottles with room temperature water from the beginning. That way, you can make a bottle whenever you need it without worrying about warming up water—which is a total lifesaver when you have to make a bottle on the go or in the middle of the night.

2. Buy online to save shopping time

You'll need a lot of formula throughout the first year and beyond—so finding a brand like Comforts, which offers high-quality infant formula at lower prices, will help you save a substantial amount of money. Not to mention, you can order online or find the formula on shelves during your standard shopping trip—and that'll save you so much time and effort as well.

3. Pre-measure nighttime bottles

The middle of the night is the last time you'll want to spend precious minutes mixing up a bottle. Instead, our editors suggest measuring out the correct amount of powder formula into a bottle and putting the necessary portion of water on your bedside table. That way, all you have to do is roll over and combine the water and formula in the bottle before feeding your baby. Sounds so much better than hiking all the way to the kitchen and back at 3 am, right?

4. Divide serving sizes for outings

Before leaving the house with your baby, divvy up any portions of formula and water that you may need during your outing. Then, when your baby is hungry, just combine the pre-measured water and powder serving in the bottle. Our editors confirm this is much easier than trying to portion out the right amount of water or formula while riding in the car.

5. Memorize the mental math

Soon enough, you'll be able to prepare a bottle in your sleep. But, especially in the beginning or when increasing your baby's serving, the mental math can take a bit of time. If #mombrain makes it tough to commit the measurements to memory, write up a cheat sheet for yourself or anyone else who will prepare your baby's bottle.

6. Warm up chilled formula with water

If you're the savvy kind of mom who prepares and refrigerates bottles for the day in advance, you'll probably want to bring it up to room temperature before serving. Rather than purchase a bottle warmer, our editors say the old-fashioned method works incredibly well: Just plunge the sealed bottle in a bowl of warm water for a few minutes and—voila!—it's ready to serve.



Another great tip? Shop the Comforts line on Comfortsforbaby.com to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices. Or, follow @comfortsforbaby for more information!

This article was sponsored by The Kroger Co. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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