What to Put in Your Preschooler’s Backpack


David Cohen

By: David Cohen

It’s time for the start of another school year! Your young child is ready to join a class, get to know teachers and build a new level of independence. What you put in your child’s figurative backpack – those feelings, skills and attitudes – can make all the difference. Sometimes, a special item in the literal backpack is great too.

Love
Fill that bag with lots of love! When children feel loved, they are ready to succeed. They can get through difficult separations, negotiations with new friends and life’s little challenges. This is communicated in so many ways by children’s loving families. Some special ways to convey this love are dropping a family photo into your child’s backpack or adding a note in the lunchbox, to be read by the teacher.

Confidence
Every child has their own natural level of confidence. Embrace this and support it. If your preschooler is not nervous about starting school, be sure that you don’t introduce concern. There is plenty on a child’s mind, as they say goodbye and start their day. No need to go overboard on teaching a child how to stay safe by washing hands and keeping distant. Know that the teachers have your child’s best interests in mind. Focus on the wonderful things that will be experienced at school. Make a plan with your child to talk about the day when you pick up from school.

Voice
We all feel best when we feel heard; when we feel some sense of control over our lives. Give your child the skill of making their needs known. Sometimes, we are too good at anticipating a child’s needs. Find some times for your child to ask for what is needed. Finished your water? Encourage them to say, “May I please have more water?” Older sibling has something that you want? “I would like a turn when you’re done.” This very effective skill needs lots of practice.

Fully Charged Battery
A good night’s sleep, a healthy breakfast and a reasonable schedule can make the day very positive. Getting all of the biological needs met prepares your child and can eliminate lots of the pitfalls. Minor setbacks stay minor. Remember that it can be exhausting meeting new people, getting used to new environments and learning new things. Plus, those first weeks of school may create patterns of eating and sleeping for the year.

Clearly, you have been filling your child’s backpack forever. A new school year is an opportunity to evaluate what’s been added. Lighten the load or add some new items. One of the beauties of early childhood is that families make a huge impact. They can make the school experience a thing of wonder, learning and positive memories.