How to Make Preschool Drop Off Easier

This year is our second year doing preschool drop off with Isaac. I still remember the first time we dropped him off last year, he didn’t cry right away but he did tear up and we fought tears all year long. He is in the 3 year old room again, his birthday is right after the cut off, and this time around it’s as if he is a different kid. We are on week three of the school year and he hasn’t teared up once, making drop off so much easier for both of us. But there are quite a few moms and kids who are having a hard time with drop off this year. They are in the same place we were last year and it breaks my heart to see another mom tearing up as her baby cries for her to come back. SO, today I am going to share a little tidbit for helping make preschool drop offs easier.

If You Take One Thing Away…

If you are going to take only one thing away from this post, I want it to be this:

Your child is safe and, more than likely, happy within minutes of you leaving the room.

If you don’t believe me, check your kiddos face as they line up during pickup. Before they see you, I would be willing to bet they have a smile on their face as they explore this new independence from you.

I left the room almost every day last year to Isaac’s tears trailing me out of the building. It is heartbreaking and all you want to do, as mom, is turn back around and whisk them away from that discomfort. I would walk away sucking in a deep breath to keep my own tears at bay, and remind myself of the pure pride on his face each afternoon when I picked him up. He was beaming with joy every single day. No, he couldn’t tell me what he did that day, but he was happy. So hold onto that smile!

If you aren’t sure, or your child isn’t super excited about his day, ask the teacher. Ask the teachers how long it is taking your child to calm down. Are they interacting with the other children? Are they playing and having fun until they see me again? Preschool teachers have hearts of gold and the patience of a saint. If you need some reassurance that your child is fine once you are gone, ask the teacher.

Now that you have a bit of reassurance, let’s talk about a few tricks I have played with to make drop offs easier.

“Mommy Comes to Pick You Up”

My toddlers barely listen to me, and I am sure you are in the same boat. BUT, when it comes to reassuring our children words do matter. Your three year old understands what you are saying. He might not like what you are saying but he does hear you. So, you will never remind your child enough that you will be back to pick them up. So remind them!

In the car on the way to school, talk about school. Drum up some excitement. Ask your toddler what she thinks she is going to do at school that day. “Do you think you will play with play dough or go outside?” From there, remind them how the day goes. “Mommy will drop you off at school where you will see all of your friends and then I’ll be back to pick you up and we can have lunch!” If someone else picks them up, let them know who to expect!

Remind them daily that they go to school and you come to pick them up. Make a game out of it. Tell everyone who your child knows what a big kid they are becoming. “Grandma, did you know _____ goes to school like a big kid? And who comes to pick you up?” Share your pride in your little one and give them opportunities to show you (and remind themselves) that they know you always come to get them.

Create a Routine

I swear I have read “stick to the routine” about a million and two times since I found out I was pregnant with Isaac. Once again, you’re going to read it here. Create a routine for drop off.

This is going to help them find comfort in the fact that you are going to drop them off, and will always be back to pick them up. It will also help with the lingering that you want to do to ensure your child is okay with you leaving (HINT: this is the worst thing you can do for your child and the teacher!)

So, what does a drop off routine look like?

Really, it can be anything. Here is ours:

  • We walk in holding hands
  • Take off our backpack, take folder out of backpack and put it in the folder bin
  • Hang up backpack (+ coat)
  • Give Mommy a big hug
  • Give mommy a high five
  • Isaac walks to his seat + mommy leaves

I started doing the little ritual of hug + high five around February of last year. Within a week I started to notice a difference. He wasn’t fighting me into the classroom, and wasn’t trying to hold onto me for dear life. He was still tearing up a bit and was hesitant to go find his seat, but he started to do it and things changed.

This year, we do exactly what is written in that list, and he hasn’t cried once. He goes right to his seat and begins whatever morning activity they are doing.

No Lingering

I am going to be blunt here. The WORST thing you can do during drop off is linger around your child. I have watched moms stay in the classroom to help calm their child down and one of two things happens.

  1. The child amps up more and more and more until EITHER the teacher (kindly) pushes mom out of the room or the mom takes the child home. If mom leaves, the child takes longer to calm down because now they are at a 10 when they only started at a 5; if mom takes child home, you have in a way rewarded the crying and the next day will be just as hard.
  2. Mom calms child down and gets them to start doing morning activity. Then, mom says bye for the second time and the crying starts all over again. This typically lands back at number one where the teacher is kindly pushing mom out of room.

If you have to drop and run, drop and run. If you have to hand off your child to the teacher or the aide, hand them off. It is going to feel like you are stabbing your own child in the back, but it will be easier the next day. Focus on that smile at the end of the day and the fact that going to school is GOOD for them. Better to do get used to it at 3 than at 5/6 in kindergarten when other kids might remember the crying.

Make an After School Promise

If your child is really having a hard time, make a promise. “After school, if we have a good day, we can to the park/get ice cream/have a piece of gum/watch your favorite show/etc/etc.” At pickup, ask them if they had a good day and if they are ready to do X with you.

With Isaac, he got to watch YouTube Kids while he ate his lunch after school. Silly, I know, but this helped so much last year. He had something to look forward too and then, at pickup, was proud that he didn’t cry.

“I didn’t cry today, can I watch that show?” he would ask as I buckled him into his car seat at pickup.

NOTE: this little habit is harder to break so I recommend this as a last resort.


Here are two things for you to remember:

  1. Your child is safe and, probably, calm within minutes of you leaving
  2. This isn’t forever. Each day you and your child are going to get better with drop offs. A year from now this will just be a story you get to tell other moms about how you overcame

Find what works for you and your preschooler. Try something and, if that doesn’t work, try something else. Talk to and work with your child’s teacher, they might have some words of reassurance or a helping hand they can give you. The tears at drop off are just a season that you’ll look back on. So hang tight mamma and know that my inbox (+ DMs) are always open if you need some encouragement!

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