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Help Your Tot Start Preschool Right With These School Day Essentials

Photo: Element5 Digital (Unsplash)

I was more nervous about my daughter’s first day of preschool than she was. It was her first exposure to school. Her first teachers. Her first circle time. Next thing you know, she’ll be off to college, I sniffed.

But also, I worried about sending her to school with the right stuff. How big of a backpack did she need? (Not too big.) What should I pack for lunch? (I still haven’t figured this out.) What should she wear? (Nothing fancy, since it will likely get dirty.)

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Your preschool should have a list of specific things you need to provide, but I found that there are some less obvious purchases that are universal. Here’s everything that can help your child start preschool on the right foot.

Labels

Mabel’s Labels
Image: Mabel’s Labels

Chances are, your kid won’t be the only one with a unicorn or dinosaur lunch box. Avoid mix-ups—or lost items—by slapping a customized sticker like Mabel’s Labels on all your belongings. Ours have lasted for years without peeling off, and the waterproof labels can be sent through a dishwasher or washing machine. Your preschool teacher will thank you.

Water Bottle

Thermos Funtainer, $14 and up
Graphic: Chelsea Stone
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Young kids need 6 to 7 cups of water a day, so sending them to preschool with a reusable water bottle is a must. The 12 oz. Thermos Funtainer comes in dozens of designs, from Harry Potter to Hello Kitty, keeps water cool for hours, and is easy for little hands to use. Ours has never leaked and has held up against plenty of abuse. One of the more affordable options available, it also doesn’t break the bank if it’s accidentally lost.

Lunch Box

Pottery Barn Kids Lunch Box, $19
Graphic: Chelsea Stone
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Pack your child’s favorite foods in a durable, insulated lunch box like the Pottery Barn Kids Lunch Box, which comes in a variety of fun patterns and can withstand being carelessly tossed around. For picky eaters, the Bentgo Lunch Box is an all-in-one, dishwasher- and microwave-safe container that snaps open to reveal four removable trays for food—plenty of room for variety.

Backpack

Skip Hop Bat Toddler Backpack, Amazon
Graphic: Chelsea Stone
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Preschool backpacks are seriously the cutest—it’s hard to pick just one. You can pair your Pottery Barn Kids lunch box with a matching Pottery Barn Kids Backpack; for an additional $10, you can personalize it with your child’s name. Little hipsters can opt for Fjallraven’s Kanken Kids, a miniature version of the popular Swedish backpack. And who can resist Skip Hop’s upside down bat backpack?

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Picture Books

Maisy Goes to Preschool, $5
The Kissing Hand, $12
Graphic: Chelsea Stone

Help them prepare for the transition to preschool with some good picture books. I’ve read aloud Maisy Goes to Preschool over and over again—luckily, it’s fun and short. Maisy the mouse experiences all the entertaining activities you might expect at preschool, from snack to nap time. And for kids (and parents) worried about being separated for the first time, The Kissing Hand offers comfort and reassurance. In the classic picture book, a mother raccoon shares a special ritual with her son to help ease his anxiety about the first day of school. I dare you not to cry.

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About the author

Ellen Lee

Ellen Lee is a freelance writer in the San Francisco Bay Area.