The increasing use of ambulatory care settings for children's surgery places more responsibility on parents for psychological preparation of children for surgery and for their post-operative care. This paper describes the evaluation of a pre-admission programme to prepare children between the ages of 3 and 15 years and their families psychologically for day surgery. Seventy-five families comprised the study sample, 23 in the programme group and 53 in the non-intervention group. The programme focused on familiarizing families with the physical and procedural components of day surgery through a videotape of a family in a naturally occurring day surgery situation, a tour, and hospital play. Fewer children and parents in the programme group reported high anxiety levels awaiting surgery. Children and parents with previous surgical experience reported higher levels of pre-surgical anxiety than inexperienced families. Families reported the physicians and day surgery nurse as their primary sources of information and rated the day surgery nurse highest in their satisfaction with information received. Implications for practice, particularly for meeting the needs of young children and out-of-town families, are discussed.