When One Child is Too Young for School

Any parent who thinks temper tantrums in the checkout line of the grocery store are bad should experience the ones that occur when an older child is dropped off for school and his younger sibling can’t join him.

When a child starts school the entire family begins this new journey with her. The change in routine and daily structure does not just impact the child starting school; it affects the entire family, especially the young sibling she’s left behind.


It’s no secret that younger children emulate their older siblings. When a preschool aged child climbs the playground ladder, it’s her young sibling toddling below ready to make his own attempt. Younger siblings look up to their older brothers and sisters and want to do the same things that they do—even when doing so simply isn’t possible.

So how can parents make the transition to school easier for a younger sibling?

Start something new. Consider enrolling in a mommy and me type class or going to a weekly story time. In addition to providing your younger child an opportunity to socialize with peers, he’ll likely love the idea of going to his own class.

Give him something to look forward to. Tell him what your plans are for after you drop big sister off at school. Perhaps he loves trains or Play Dough—tell him you’ll head home and play. But be careful. Talking about all the fun you’ll have in front of the school aged siblings may result in a teary drop off. She may be more interested in doing what you’re doing than going to school.

Create new routines. Once you’ve figured out your morning routine, set it in stone. Children feel safe and secure when they know what’s going to happen next. Perhaps you beep the horn goodbye when leaving the school parking lot or share a snack in the car. Find ways to incorporate consistency into you and your younger child’s day.

Do what you couldn’t do before. It’s much easier to paint, bake and do messy activities when there is only one child to clean up after. Use your time together to do things that you’ve been hesitant to do when both children are around.

Create your own classroom. If it’s a classroom your child wants, a classroom you shall create. Head home to have your own version of school. Read favorite books, practice sorting shapes and engage him in other age-appropriate activities that he enjoys and associates with his big sister’s school.

It’s always hard to see your child heartbroken and losing his favorite playmate can cause just that. Providing lots of extra snuggles and hugs and doing something special together will help him transition to Monday through Friday life as a newfound only child.