The Super Cool Guide to School

Make Your Life School-Friendly

Your child's teacher runs a classroom full of kids every day. Feel free to use her expert ideas and strategies at home.

  • Sing it: Lots of preschools have a "cleanup" song that you can use at home to encourage your child to pick up his toys after playtime.
  • Chore is fun: Preschool teachers are great at finding age-appropriate tasks for kids. If your 3-year-old daughter is in charge of napkins at school, make her home job placing a napkin at each plate at dinner and then throwing them away after you eat.
  • Bin there, done that: In the classroom, most things that the children need are within their reach and very organized. Toys are at a child's level, separated into different categories, and labeled with both a picture and a name. If you set up your child's bedroom or playroom the same way, it'll keep everything neat and also give her the freedom to choose what she wants to play with without asking Mom or Dad for help.
  • Art smarts: Limiting choices helps your child make decisions. If you let him choose from three paint colors instead of putting out all 10, you'll have less mess and your kid won't be overwhelmed by too many options.
  • Visual cues: Use a large calendar or schedule with fun pictures to reinforce what day it is and what the family has planned.
  • Coming up... The "3-minute warning" before ending one activity and starting a new one is a great tactic. If your child's teacher uses a musical signal, timer, or minute glass to emphasize the transition, use that too.
  • House rules: Many teachers talk about classroom commandments with the children and then post them in the classroom. Create a list for your house, hang it in a prominent spot, and refer to it when issues arise.
  • Quiet, please Have a signal to get kids to quiet down and pay attention. Find out how it's done in your child's classroom, or try one of the following techniques.
  • The Classic: Teach your child that when you put your finger to your lips he should do the same. Sssh together.
  • The Discreet: Use your two fingers to point to your eyes to let your child know you want her to look at you.
  • The Fun: SOS! SOS! Before you had kids it might have meant "emergency," but now it means "Sound of Silence!"

Try to minimize any other changes going on in your child's life during the weeks leading up to school. If she's moving from a crib to a bed, giving up naps, or changing caregivers around the same time as she starts preschool, the experience could be more overwhelming than it has to be.

  • Over the weekend or after a shopping trip, fill a bunch of snack-size baggies with small portions of healthy snacks and put them in a "snack cabinet." Then you can easily to toss them into your kids' lunch boxes for the rest of the week.
  • Keep the TV off in the morning. You're more likely to be late for school.
  • Tone down your evenings and weekends. Your child will be tired from school and need more of your attention when she's home. At the beginning, limit your evenings out, keep playdates and after-school activities to a minimum, and make your weekends relaxed and unhurried.

The Experts

  • Lolita Carrico, mom of Jaden, 5, and Jack, 3, and founder of
  • Ellen Birnbaum, associate director, and Nancy Schulman, director of the 92nd Street Y Nursery School, in New York City.
  • Walter Goldberg, 6-year-old Brooklyn schoolkid.
  • Marie E. Jones, lead preschool teacher at the American River College Child Development Center, in Sacramento, California.
  • Karen Reivich, PhD, psychologist, coauthor of The Resilience Factor, and mom of four.

Copyright © 2007. Used with permission from the September 2007 issue of Parents magazine.

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