Toddler walking on blocks platform.

Admittedly, my son is now long passed preschool age. He’s a thriving 11-year-old who’s preparing to enter sixth grade. But I have numerous friends with kids who are now in preschool, and I hear all about their trials and tribulations, not only while preparing for the first year but also prepping for the second (and sometimes third for kids with early-year birthdays) and using the knowledge they have learned.

Remember, it might be “pre” school, but there are still things that kids of that age, which can range from 2 through 4, need to get off to the right start. Ad you’ll want to do everything you can to set them up for success.

What items should you get for preschool?

We all have an essentials checklist for kindergarten and grade school, and many of those same items make sense for preschool. They’re just smaller!


Child's backpack with dinosaur images.

You’ll want a kids’ backpack that’s small enough for a small child to carry on his own, but also spacious enough to fit the necessities, namely an extra pair of clothes, bottle of water, and lunch bag. Make sure the closure is easy to open and close (think zippers versus straps). Material that can be easily cleaned is a must as well, since there will inevitably be spills.

Lunch pack and container

CocoMelon backpack with matching lunch bag.

Get ones that are easy to open and close without help from the teachers (I recall running into this very issue with my son when the first lunch containers I got were difficult for him to open). Look for a set with compartments to keep food separate, but that is sized appropriately to fit inside a child’s small lunch bag. Note that some backpacks come with matching lunch bags, too (though you’ll still need containers).

Keep in mind that you aren’t only sending your child off to school with a sandwich, side, and drink. If you’re talking about full day of preschool, there will likely be one or two snack periods as well. Dividers are great in theory, but I find that food can sometimes leak from one partition to another, especially with kids who toss their bags around. I like separate containers, at least for food like fruit, vegetables, meat, and cheese. Don’t forget the ice pack!

Water bottle or sippy cup

Kids water bottle with a lion on the front.

Don’t skimp on the water bottle or sippy cup. Look for a good-quality one with a cover that will keep water cool and fresh all day, and an easy-to-drink spout or built-in straw. Also, consider how easy it is to clean since your child will be using it at least five days per week. You’d be surprised how much crud, like food particles, can accumulate on the spout and underneath, which can lead to mold growth. So, make sure to take it apart at least weekly for a good scrub and dry. Alternatively, look for one with a wide and open spout that’s easier to clean, as long as your child is comfortable drinking from it without spilling.


Paw Patrol child size Thermos in red.

Unless the school provides meals, you’ll need to send your little one off with lunch each day. And there’s only so many ham and cheese and PB&J sandwiches a little one can eat. It’s easy to pack hot meals, too. Simple things like pasta with sauce or noodles with chicken and vegetables can be made the night before (even leftovers from dinner). Pop them into the microwave or toaster oven to reheat quickly in the morning, transfer it to a Thermos, and voila, piping hot and nutritious lunch. Don’t forget the cutlery, and look for kid-friendly, easy-to-clean silicone forks and spoons.


Aden & Anais blanket folded.

At the preschool level, nap time is usually part of the equation, or at least quiet time when the kids lie down to relax. You may need (or want) to provide your own baby blanket for them to cover up with, especially if it’s a special one with which they find comfort. It should be big enough to fully cover your little one but compact enough for weekly transport. Look for hypoallergenic material in case a friend ends up sharing and has allergies (even if your child doesn’t). Wash it daily because there’s no telling what dirt and grime it has picked up at preschool. Ideally, have a few to rotate among.

Small stuffed animal

Cow stuffed animal.

Take this opportunity to grab your child a special stuffed animal that will be just for school, especially during naptime. Look for a cuddly friend like a rabbit, teddy bear, a cute dinosaur, or even a stuffed toy of their favorite TV show or movie character. It can provide comfort during naptime and help shy kids who might have trouble transitioning from home to preschool in their first year.

School accessories

Chances are, the school will provide the materials needed for crafting and other activities, but keep a supply at home, too, so your child can continue the creative play at nights and on the weekends. My son had a “craft box” with pencils, pencil crayons, glue, construction paper, scotch tape, and other crafting items. He still has it to this day and uses it when the inspiration strikes, or to get supplies for school art projects.

Weather-appropriate clothing and outerwear

A new wardrobe is mandatory for every new school year. This isn’t just so your little one can show off his great fashion sense, but also because they grow so quickly at this age. This means season-appropriate wear as well, like rain boots, winter boots, a snowsuit (that your child can put on and take off himself), winter jacket, hat, gloves, scarf, and splash pants. Kids might play outside in some preschools, which means you (and the teachers!) will want to keep their clothing protected. From snow to mud, rain, and dirt, the right clothing and outerwear can make a difference.

Tips for packing for preschool

Now that you know what to bring, here are some handy tips that I have learned along the way from my own experience and friends with young kids today.

Cut food for safer consumption

I will admit that long into the grade school years beyond kindergarten, I continued to cut my son’s grapes lengthwise. Food like grapes and hot dogs are very close to the size of a child’s windpipe, and thus present easy choking hazards. When packing grapes, cut them lengthwise versus in half down the middle. This makes them thinner and thus safer to eat. Do the same with hot dogs before cutting them into little pieces your toddler can pick up and munch on.

Brother P-Touch label maker

Label everything

Most schools will advise you to do this, but it’s a good idea even if they don’t: label everything. This includes shoes, lunch bags and backpacks, water bottle, and clothing, especially things like hats, gloves, and scarves. Kids will almost definitely lose something and will certainly misplace items. Also, chances are your child might have a friend in preschool with the exact same shoes or lunch bag. Labeling makes finding and identifying your child’s property easy.

Use waterproof labels that are designed to last, and that won’t come off in the washing machine or sink. If your child’s stuff still ends up in the Lost & Found (and it probably will), at least you can confirm that they are indeed your child’s items when retrieving them.

I love ordering pre-made labels, but with the chance to do it over again, I might invest in a label maker and, with the right adhesive paper, make my own. I don’t use labels as often anymore for my son’s belongings, we still draw from a package I bought years ago for new items like shoes, water bottles, notebooks, and even his computer. So you’ll be using these far beyond just preschool.

Teach them at home, too

Preschool workbook cover

Preschool, of course, has an educational component to it. By default, kids also learn about things like sharing and interacting with others. But unless you enroll your child in a specialized preschool, learning might be minimal. Help your kids get a leg up before kindergarten by working on skills and academics with them at home, too. (This, by the way, is a good idea through all of grade school, if you have the time). Preschool workbooks are worth investing in to help teach your children the basics of everything from colours to counting, identifying objects and animals and relating them to the words, and more. Even 10 minutes a day can work wonders. For kids with older siblings, they’ll love having their own studies to do while the older kids are doing their homework.

We used workbooks with my son, who is born in January and thus couldn’t start junior kindergarten until he was four months away from turning five) and he did a single page or assignment each day. It made a major difference once he started kindergarten.

Pack extras

Even through the kindergarten years, teachers ask parents to pack extras for underwear, socks, and even shirts and pants. This is necessary for bathroom accidents, spills, or even if the child gets soaked after playing outside (those darn puddles!) and needs to change. Doing this will prevent you from having to leave work early to rush over to the preschool and pick your dirty child up or bring over a second set of clothing so they can change. If the toddler is still in diapers or in the middle of potty training, make sure to pack extra diapers every day as well.

Get ready for preschool!

Ready to send your toddler off to preschool? Some kids take to it right away, others have a bit of separation anxiety and might need a few days, up to a week, to get into the new routine. But before you know it, your little one will be rushing through the door to see their friends, teachers, and all the fun toys. Offering a bit of the same comforts of home make the experience even better, and following these tips will make the transition easier on you, too.

Check out plenty more gear for toddlers and preschoolers at Best Buy Online

Christine Persaud
With 20+ years of experience in trade and consumer tech journalism, I have covered the tech space since before social media was a "thing" and the smartphone as we know it was even invented. Writing for various technology, lifestyle, and entertainment sites, I have covered and reviewed hundreds of tech products, from home appliances to wearables, fitness tech to headphones, TV entertainment products and services, and more. I'm also a passionate foodie who loves to cook and bake, a TV show fanatic (happy to give what to watch recommendations!), and proud mother to a 12-year-old son.