Summer has barely started, but it’s really important to start preparing your soon-to-be preschooler as soon as possible. The sooner you start the better prepared your child will be.

Unless your child has an older sibling who goes to school, your toddler has no idea how significantly his life will change come September. Even still, a three-year old child is still only in the “pre-operational” stage of cognitive development. This means that while he understands object permanence (things still exist even when he can’t see them) that he is ego-centric, and the world around him exists only to him. He doesn’t understand why or where his older sibling goes, just that she still exists even when she’s not around. 

It might actually be an easier transition if both parents are working, and must drop their children off at daycare. The child is already used to saying goodbye to Mommy and Daddy in the morning, and knows that he will be picked up at the end of the day. He might not understand the concept of time, but going to daycare is simply part of his daily routine.

For stay at home mothers and fathers, however, it might be a little more difficult. If this is the first time that you are leaving your child in the care of another adult, it might trigger separation anxiety in your child, and might have an effect on your own emotions as well. You’ll wonder if you’re doing the right thing, which of course, yes, you are.

Take your time with this crucial transitional phase. Go at your child’s pace, and play games that will teach her that separating isn’t so bad. Play hide and seek together. Hide a toy nearby so it can’t be seen and then rediscover it.

Be prepared for some erratic behavior. When a child is learning something new, the things she’s already mastered might slip a little. For example, if she’s potty-trained and has learned to stay dry through the night, she might wet the bed. Holding onto the things she’s already learned while making new adjustments will also take some time.

The older he gets, he will become more interested in his friends and other school-related activities, and the more independence he will gain. But don’t worry, even when they become teenagers and start behaving like they don’t need you, they will. They will always need you.