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Preschools have policies and routines to help things run smoothly, keep children safe and make sure children have enjoyable, stimulating experiences that support their early development.
Here's an A-Z checklist of what you can expect at preschool, which can help you and your child settle in.
Arriving at preschool and going home
State and territory regulations say you must write your child's name and arrival time in a record book when you drop your child off at preschool. You also need to sign to say that you've picked up your child and at what time.
If someone else is picking up your child from preschool, you need to let the preschool know, usually in writing.
Asthma and allergies
If your child has asthma, it's important to let the preschool know and give staff a copy of your child's asthma plan.
If your child has allergies to food or other substances, the preschool needs to know this too. If your child is at risk of anaphylaxis, make sure staff have access to your child's adrenaline auto-injector and know how to use it.
Clothes for preschool
Comfortable, loose-fitting clothes that let your child move freely are best for preschool. It's also a good idea to send your child to preschool in clothes that are OK to get dirty and to pack some spare clothes in your child's bag. Closed-toe shoes make it easier for your child to run and climb.
Your preschool's educational philosophy will be outlined in its information booklet or website. Details of the educational program might be displayed in the building, and you can talk about it more with staff. You might also get a regular newsletter keeping you up to date with what the children are learning.
Fees and the way they're collected will vary from preschool to preschool. It's a good idea to ask about your preschool's policy ahead of time. If paying fees is a problem for you, let the preschool know so it can link you with financial support or arrange payment options.
Some preschools provide meals, whereas others ask you to pack lunches for your child.
Many preschools have policies to reduce the risk of children having allergic reactions to food - for example, 'no food sharing' policies. Or you might be asked not to send foods that contain the most common allergens. This information is usually in the preschool's information booklet or on its website.
Preschools must keep a formal written record of any medication your child needs while at preschool. You'll need to provide a medication authority form for this.
You'll need to provide evidence of your child's immunisation status for preschool enrolment. You can read more about this in our article on immunisation in childhood.
Being involved in your child's preschool helps you to understand more about what happens there. You can take part in preschool activities in many ways - for example, joining excursions or getting involved with preschool management.
Your preschool will have policies on things like behaviour management, bullying, asthma, allergies and dispute resolution. All policies should be in the preschool's information booklet, on its website and/or on display in the preschool.
Most of the time things go smoothly at preschool, but sometimes you might have concerns or issues. It's a good idea to speak with preschool staff if any problems come up. Working things out quickly can prevent a small problem turning into a bigger issue.
All preschools have safety rules. To keep your child safe, it's important for you to get to know these rules and follow them. The rules will include:
- people with permission to collect your child
- out-of-bounds areas for children
- traffic issues like parking
- emergency response drills.
If your child is sick, it's best to keep him at home where he'll be more comfortable and won't pass germs on to other children. If your child has an infectious illness - for example, whooping cough, school sores or chickenpox - it's a good idea to let your preschool know so the staff can tell other parents.
Head lice are a common issue for children at this age. If your child has head lice, it's best to tell the preschool and keep your child at home until you've got rid of the lice.
Your child needs to take a broad-brim hat to preschool so she's protected when she's playing outside in the sun. It's also a very good idea to get in the habit of putting a broad-spectrum SPF 30+ sunscreen on your child at home before preschool.
If your child is toilet-trained before starting preschool, it's helpful to dress him in clothes that make it easy for him to use the toilet - for example, pants with elastic waists. If your child has clothing with zips, buckles or buttons, you might want to help him practise opening and closing these at home. And you can also pack a spare pair of underpants in case of accidents.
If your child isn't using the toilet independently by the time preschool starts, speak with the preschool teacher.
Toys from home
Each preschool has its own policy on whether children can bring toys from home. It's best to check before your child packs her favourite teddy in her bag.