The Fashion Magpie Back to School Toddler

Back to School for Minimagpies.

*The little plum above is wearing this darling back-to-school dress.

It’s hard to imagine that mini might be starting a twos program next fall.  (Might because — it’s a distinct possibility she will not get in!  Read below…!)  Yes, it’s a year away and I’ve heard that the difference between a 1.5 year old and a 2.5 year old is night a day, but — she’s so little!  I’ll have to write a post about my experience applying to programs in Manhattan at some point (we’re just now in the midst of it), if any of you are interested.  There is a lot to absorb and digest, for two reasons.  First, I’m not embarrassed to admit that I didn’t even know what a twos program was a few months ago, or whether one made sense for us.  I’d heard about them but couldn’t get a clear picture (or answer!) as to the advantages and disadvantages.  So it took some time and many conversations with my parents and trusted friends and Mr. Magpie to decipher whether we felt a twos program was right for mini, or whether we should wait and send her to pre-K when she turns three and a half.  The second confusing aspect is — MANHATTAN!  I was intimidated by the hype, as there are entire books written on the topic and I have friends who have hired consultants to help with the process!  One friend told me that I’d have to apply to at least twelve preschools in order to get into one.  Twelve!  WHAT?!  I only applied to four colleges!  (FYI, we are not heeding that advice.)  In short, the process is competitive and complex here, and there are so many factors that go into which programs to consider: program philosophy, school “vibe” (how you feel when you visit! — and you can learn a lot from websites, too; interesting to think about what they include vs. omit on their sites), staff, location, age cut-off (some have rigorous cut-offs, i.e.,”your child must be exactly 2y9mo or older to start this program), hours.  On the hours front: there are some programs I looked at that meet three days a week for full days; others meet every day from 8-12; others have morning OR afternoon sessions available; still others meet everyday but only for two hours a day.  And then there’s the question of exmissions, i.e., which schools students matriculate to after graduating from the early childhood program.  I’d never heard this word prior to this process, but in Manhattan, it’s also a big deal, because if certain schools have strong relationships with other schools, or if you’re hellbent on getting your child into XYZ grade school, or if you DON’T want to even think about reapplying in the next few years, you need to think about the early childhood program you select: do you select one that starts at pre-k and goes all the way up to eighth grade, thus thwarting the process of reapplication?  Do you favor ones that have a strong record of sending students to the grade school of your choice?  It’s a lot to think about when you also factor in — what will this look like for me, as a parent, and what implications does it have for childcare?  Do you keep a nanny?  Do you scale back hours?  Do you commit to commuting thirty minutes each way at 8 AM and then again at 12 PM?

As you can see, there is a lot to chew.  I’ll spare you additional details until we’ve sorted this out, and only if you’re interested — this could be a long, dark rabbit hole.

On the lighter side: I’m a little late with this post, as those of you with children have likely already sent your little ones off to school, but I’m sharing a couple of back to school finds I’ve discovered.  Click the links to access details or see my notes below; I’ve included alternates and a few other finds there, too!

+Cecil and Lou monogrammed gingham dress.  Also adore this smocked apple dress, this collared plaid dress, and this A for Apple dress.

+L’Amour Ruthie t-straps.  For outside fun, love these navy canvas sneakers.  Mini has them in white!

+Monogrammed seersucker backpack.  (And coordinating lunchbox!)  Also love this leather style (so chic!) and some of the cute patterns that StateBags has!  Meanwhile, if you have a tennis playing mini…THIS.

+Felt first day of school banner.

+Monogrammed apple keychain.

+Mayoral red duffel coat.

+Pretty Originals pom pom socks.

+Banwood Bikes helmet.

+Micro scooter.

+Gap suede loafers.

+Cable-knit cashmere sweater.  Also love this cotton style with the American flag!

+Stainless steel lunchbots lunchbox.

+Mayoral duffel coat.  For a more casual look, I love this Patagonia fleece.

+E Frances little notecards — upgrade your lunchbox note! 🙂

+Camelbak water bottle.

+Mifold grab & go booster seat.  Manhattan moms rejoice!  These portable booster seats get strong safety reviews and can fit easily into a backpack/bag in case you need to cab to school at the last second…!

+Monogrammed seersucker backpack.

+Personalized school labels.

+Petit Bateau raincoat.

+Hunter rainboots.

P.S.  Not included in the roundup, but this classic chalkboard map would be so fun in a kids’ playroom, these monogrammed pencil cases are adorable, and I’m pretty sure this roll-up pencil set would be the covet of many a child.

P.P.S. Someone gave mini this book and it is a really sweet read for first-day-of-school kids.


  1. I have LONG been fascinated by the schooling process in NYC and how it starts sooo young. It is insane to me (and this from someone who went to fairly competitive schools her whole life). I don’t wish that stress on anyone and hope you make it through relatively unscathed!

    We decided to put the baby in a part-day, part-time program when she turns 18 months since I need a break and to not be doing all my consulting work at night (considered getting a nanny, but ultimately decided against it). Not as much agita for us re: feeder school patterns since we’ll be moving in a couple of years, luckily – but even here, I put her name down on a couple of lists back in March in order to ensure she’d be in a program this fall. (There was one program that had a waiting list to TOUR it! Shades of what you’re going through, I’m sure.)

    I love everything you’ve posted for back-to-school items! But – I’m realizing that I’ll need to buy the baby actual play clothes she can get dirty/ruin without my being annoyed. I brought her to visit her program wearing something I consider everyday wear, and one of the teachers gently commented that I may want to consider more casual play clothing. What does that even look like?!?!

    Always happy to commiserate over schooling. I studied child care in the past, and know well the sad state of affairs out there.

    1. “Actual play clothes” – what are these? Ha, just kidding. I hear you — sounds like a trip to Gap for some basic leggings and tees is in order?? I’m now looking at my list and realizing this may be far-fetched once mini is actually in school.

      Glad you found the right fit for your mini. I know it’s tough no matter where you live, too, and not only from a competitiveness perspective. There is so much to weigh, as you point out! Which program? Do I do a nanny or not? Etc! I’m glad you found the right solution for you.


  2. Good luck with the application process! I can only imagine the agita involved. I know Mini will end up in the right place for her and your family, though — and, I, too, am intrigued by the process and would be interested in hearing more! I imagine it will help me relate to my two close friends who have children a bit younger than Mini and both live in Manhattan.

    Love all of your school picks — that triple-apple dress at the top is too cute, and I love all of the slightly preppy autumnal staples in pint size! 🙂

    1. Thank you — I appreciate those good vibes!! I’ll share more when we’re through/on the other side! 🙂 Until then, just keeping my wits about me.


  3. We just got back from six months in the U.K. and carried the mifold everywhere—tucked into the pocket of my husbands quilted jacket no less! Strongly recommend!

    1. Oo thanks for the vote of confidence! Definitely having this on my must-buy list when mini is old enough! XOXO

  4. As I said yesterday, more power to you!!! I have to say that I am so glad that we’re skipping this. It’s definitely one of the reasons we decided to leave Manhattan. I know that when my mother was determined to get me into a good nursery school, she worked very hard to do so. I went to the Jack & Jill School in Gramercy, which was so lovely, and I have only fond memories of my time there. I was subsequently accepted at Chapin, but before I could start we moved to Maryland (my father is in the Army.) I spoke to my mom about this a few years ago and she had a lot to say about how competitive it was even in the early 90s!!!

    I’m crossing my fingers that you navigate this process with ease and that you find the perfect place for mini!!! I’d love to read more about your experiences with this.

  5. There was a great documentary about NYC preschool admissions making the rounds a few years ago – if you have the time and inclination, check out “Nursery University.” The level of competitiveness and, really, gamification that was endemic to the process fascinated me – even in my very early 20s and living in the Midwest. Best wishes to your family as you find a place for sweet mini.

    1. Thanks, Liz! I’m super intrigued…but maybe I’ll wait until after our applications are in :/ HA! Thanks for the well-wishes. xo

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