smiling child at preschool surrounded by a table full of friendsStarting preschool is such an exciting time, but it can be really overwhelming. You are sending your small child to start school, and you can’t believe how quickly it has happened! But that’s not the most overwhelming piece. It’s the logistics. As a mom of five and a preschool teacher, I can help take the guesswork out of the shopping! Check out these back-to-school “must haves” for preschool!

A backpack

Using a backpack is great for bringing all the daily supplies to and from school. However, it is also an important opportunity for children to start to show ownership and respect for their belongings.

Help them achieve this goal by ensuring the backpack isn’t too big for them to carry but IS big enough for a piece of paper to lay flat. Typically, “preschool backpacks” are too small for flyers and artwork to be sent home. Pottery Barn size small backpacks are the perfect size (mini is too small!). You can also never go wrong with an L.L.Bean backpack that is light weight and sure to last a few years.

(For more backpack recommendations, check out this guide from one Boston mom!)

A water bottle

Did you know certain types of water bottles can support speech development? Get a water bottle with a smaller straw, like the Thermos Funtainer, to promote cheek and lip strength.  This strength will help children’s speech clarity. Thermos offers insulated water bottles, keeping water cool all day. They are also really durable and affordable, making them a great addition to your preschool supply list.

A lunch box

If you send your child to school with a lunch, a good lunch box is a must! In my classroom, bento-style boxes are a favorite for so many great reasons. The small compartments allow for some variety while not having too much of one thing. My 7-year-old still uses hers for lunch because she loves to pick new things to put in it. Eating habits can sometimes change as children transition, so making lunch fun will help them settle into the new routine.

To carry the bento box or keep loose food containers and baggies in place, everyone loves a fun lunch bag! Fluf is a Canadian brand that makes handmade, durable lunch bags from eco-friendly materials. Their designs are great for little and big kids — and grown-ups, too! Another great brand of lunch bags for messy little ones is Dabbawalla. These bags are made from a non-toxic insulated material that washes so well, and the whimsical designs are so fun.

Lunch and snack insulation

Keeping the cold food cold and the hot food hot can feel like a daunting task. To give your temp-sensitive kiddo their lunch and snacks the way they like them, be sure to buy an ice pack. You may not use it every day, but you’ll want it to be non-toxic, condensation free, and washable.

For those beloved pouches of applesauce or other fruits and veggies, this pouch sleeve can be frozen and used to keep the pouch cold.

For keeping food warm, think about a bento-style lunch container that can keep food both warm and cold, like the OmieBox. Thermos also makes a great kid-size insulated mug with an easy-to-open lid — the perfect container for soup, spaghetti, and other warm meals.

Storage bags

Most schools ask for extra clothing. Toss them in these easy-to-label bags and send them in the backpack. These bags can also hold the soiled clothing that needs to come back home, making it a win/win for both parents and teachers. The small bags make great snack bags that most children can open independently. These are a must have and will get so much use!

Rest time items

You may find that you have to provide some “rest time” items for your child. If your child’s school offers a rest time, consider a roll-up mat. These are really easy for your child to unroll to help prepare for rest. If a sheet and blanket work better for your child’s school, check out these organic crib sheets — they’re ultra soft and wash really well. Just make sure to ask your child’s school about the size they’ll need!

Home connection

This one might be the most important to a smooth transition to preschool! It’s likely the easiest thing to acquire as well. Find a way to send a piece of home to school with your child. This might be a family photo, a note or picture by you, or a special school lovey. Although school might not be the place for the irreplaceable stuffed monkey they’ve had since birth, a new lovey purchased especially for this day can help ease your child into school. It’s a big transition, and for many children it’s their first long stretch away from home! (But, take it from me… this may not be the biggest transition they’ll experience during their school years!)

Boston Moms writer Tracy Skelly contributed to this post.

Michelle Mady
Michelle is a lifelong New Englander who lives in Stoneham and works in Charlestown. She is a preschool teacher and Assistant Director at a small private preschool and holds a master’s degree in early childhood education, which has come in useful at both work and home. She has a supportive stay-at-home-dad for a husband and is a mom of five children. She has three boys born in 2005, 2007 and 2008, plus two girls born in 2012 and 2015. Michelle teaches infant and toddler classes for early education teachers and is an adjunct professor for The School Of Mom. She also runs her own business, The Parenting Survival Expert, offering parenting tips and support. In her spare time, she can be found reading a murder mystery novel, sipping far too much coffee, and dreaming of a home in the mountains.