Preparing for pre-school

Toddlers (12-30 months)

Let’s look at how you can prepare your child for pre-school. This can be an anxious, yet exciting time for you and your child, as you prepare to come to terms with the new pre-school environment and the changes this might make to your daily routine at home.

Starting pre-school is an exciting but possibly also an anxious time for you and your child. Pre-school provides opportunities for your child to develop, grow and learn a whole range of new skills.  

When to start pre-school is a personal decision for every family based on their own circumstances.

All 3 and 4-year-olds in England are entitled to 570 hours of free early education or childcare a year. This is often taken as 15 hours each week for 38 weeks of the year.

Some 2-year-olds are also eligible for free early education. Click here to check if you qualify for a free place for your child, or you can search for local pre-schools offering free childcare.

Choosing the pre-school setting 

Visiting settings and getting a feel of what suits you and your child best is a good place to start when choosing a pre-school. Is it:

  • Inclusive? Does it provide an inclusive environment and opportunities that benefit all the children, whatever your child’s ability?
  • Stimulating? Does it stimulate children with a variety of resources, inside and outside, that help support their children’s learning and development?
  • Safe? Does it make your child feel comfortable, valued and respected?
  • Welcoming? Does it have a calm, welcoming atmosphere? Are the staff friendly?
  • Committed? Does it have staff committed to providing the best care for all children, regardless of particular needs?
  • Diverse? Does it offer opportunities that promote diversity in all working relationships (children, parents, carers and communities)?
  • Warm? Have you observed warm interactions and respectful relationships between children and staff?
  • Informative? Does it provide you with information you need to understand how to support your child at home?
  • Helpful? Does it offer opportunities to discuss any questions you or they may have?
  • Prepared? Does it provide the opportunity for a home visit from the pre-school leader to see your child in the home setting?

You can also access the setting’s Ofsted report and overall inspection judgement.

Supporting your child(ren) at home

Could you enable:

  • Play? Children learn best through play, therefore allowing children time to lead their own play at home can develop a number of skills in preparation for playing and learning at pre-school.
  • Focus? Starting with short activities and progressively lengthening them, you can help children by encouraging them to build their stamina for focusing on one task which is a skill they will continue to develop in pre-school.
  • Responsibility? Involvement in day-to-day activities will support children’s development of responsibility, in areas such as self-care, food preparation and tidying up.
  • Sharing? Turn-taking is a valuable skill to learn. Facilitating opportunities for sharing and turn-taking before pre-school will support your child in being ready to interact well with their peers.
  • Routines? Your child will have new routines in pre-school.  You could introduce some of the skills needed for these at home, such as preparing to leave the house, toileting before meals and washing hands before snacks.
  • Language development? Listening to stories and singing nursery songs will develop your child’s language skills and concentration, as well as providing enjoyable play opportunities for you to share with your child.

Video resources

Wanting a video to get more ideas on activities you can do at home with your child? Here are a few to help your child’s learning through play. Enjoy participating with your child and watching them develop as they learn new skills.

Watch how to make simple instruments with your child and listen to the benefits that music can have on your child’s rhythm, language and concentration. See also Sound and Music sheet.

Watch how getting involved with stories helps your child’s language development, listening and attention. Also includes some useful tips on what resources you can use at home.

Watch how to make playdough at home and understand how supporting your child through malleable play can help benefit your child’s creativity, language and physical development. See also Malleable play information sheet.

Watch a video on how using simple equipment and toys you have around the house can help in creating a fun and enjoyable singing session whilst developing language, communication and actions.

Other resources 

Five to Thrive - The building blocks of brain development.

Getting ready for nursery/school tips and tricks - reducing anxiety and building skills for nursery (NHS)

Getting ready for nursery - BBC/CBeebies child-friendly website with lots of information including information on looking out for emotions and links to behaviour (BBC)

The Oxford owl - Information about what your child will do in the early years setting and covers the importance of going to nursery to play.

Solihull Approach - lots of information for all stages of development.

What to expect in the Early Years Foundation Stage: a guide for parents

Advice and support for families - created by Warwickshire County Council family information service 

Development matters - Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS). This is the guidance your early years setting will use to support your child's learning and development.

How to make playdough and other materials you can use at home to support your child’s learning 

Sound and music - Supporting information on ideas around sound and music and the benefits it has on your child’s learning.  

Potty training: how to start & best age to potty train (ERIC)

How to potty train (NHS)