Preschool years

Preschool is not a requirement, but many parents choose to enter their child in some sort of school experience before kindergarten. Studies show that children who’ve had at least one year of preschool adapt more easily to the first few months of kindergarten.

Toileting challenges

Many preschools in the Eugene-Springfield area only accept children who are potty-trained. Therefore, many parents feel pressured to nudge their child along in order to enroll them. Be aware, however, that putting too much pressure on a child may result in him rebelling and refusing to use the toilet altogether. Instead, by mid-summer, if you feel your child is not ready to use the toilet at school, start looking for a school that will allow him to attend in a diaper. He can always switch schools the following year when he’s more confident about his bathroom skills. Young children, even those who are good at using the toilet, may be anxious about using the bathroom at preschool and hold their urine or stool inside until after they’re picked up. This can lead to urinary tract infections and constipation. If you notice that your child is not using the bathroom at school, discuss it with the teacher and try to come up with a solution.

Fevers and colds

The average preschooler catches ten colds a year, so remember that it’s normal for your little one to have the sniffles once he starts school. If your child has a fever (a temperature of 100.4 or higher), do not take him to preschool. Your child may return to school after 24 hours fever-free.

Food allergies

If your child has a food allergy, talk to his teacher. Provide the teacher with an epinephrine pen (Epi-Pen Jr.), along with a Food Allergy Action Plan and emergency phone numbers to call if he accidentally eats something allergenic. Early use of Epi-Pen Jrs. save lives.

Picky eaters

Many young children are picky about what they eat, and will skip snacks or meals made for them at preschool. Adequate nutrition is important for attention and learning. If you know that your child won’t eat what is offered at school, send along a healthy snack or lunch that contains at least three of the four major food groups: dairy, bread, meat/protein and veggies/fruit) To learn more, go to our nutrition section.

How do I know if my child is ready for preschool?

Curious children who demonstrate a willingness to venture away from their parents may be ready for a preschool environment. There are numerous preschool programs in the Eugene-Springfield area. We advise you to research several schools to determine which one is right for your child.

Questions to ask yourself and the school:

  • What do other parents say about the preschool their child attends?
  • Is it necessary for my child to be potty-trained to attend?
  • What is the schedule? Some schools are two days a week for a few hours a day. Other programs offer full days with extended care both before and after school about 10 hours or so a day, five days a week. Pick a school with a schedule that fits your life and your child’s level of readiness.
  • How much structure is offered during the preschool day? Is it more like a long play date with freedom to roam in a stimulating environment? Or is it more like a true “school” setting with structured time for different activities?
  • What is the environment like, especially the teacher-child interactions that can be observed during a visit?
  • Am I welcome to visit unannounced?
  • How is discipline handled in the classroom?
  • How far is it from our home, and can I make the trip easily?
  • How much does it cost, and does it fit my family’s budget?

My child just started preschool and cries hysterically every day. What should I do?

Such a complicated question! School anxiety and tears are very common, especially during the first year or two. If you pull your child out, it may send him a message that says you don’t believe he can do it. Take a deep breath and consider your options carefully before giving up.

Helpful tips

Don’t make drop off a long, painful experience. Give him a hug, cheerfully tell him that you will be back to pick him up soon, and take him to his teacher for her to hold his hand as you leave.

  • Talk to the teacher and find out if the tears stop quickly, or if they persist throughout the day.
  • Try a simple sticker chart to reward him for staying in school. After five stickers, spend some “special time” with him (teach him early on that a favorite activity with a parent is a better reward than food, treats, toys or other objects).
  • If crying is a huge problem, ask permission to stay with him for a few days as he adjusts to his new environment.
  • Make a little photo album with pictures of loved ones and pets, or draw a picture for him to take to school and look at when he’s sad.
  • If allowed by the teacher, perhaps a favorite stuffed animal could join your child at school.
  • Celebrate school when you’re at home by displaying artwork and photos of his school.
  • Talk positively about how proud you are of him for being in school.

School matters

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Preparing kids for kindergarten

Kindergarten is the foundation for a child’s education, but starting school means changes to a child’s daily routine, including being away from familiar surroundings, learning new rules and following directions from adults.