It doesn’t seem two minutes since you cradled that tiny baby in your arms and now they are about to begin their next adventure and start school. Whether your child has only just turned 4 or is nearly 5; nothing prepares you for that first day at school when you let go of their tiny hand and they take their first proper steps towards becoming independent… (tissues at the ready!)
If your child has been in a pre-school attached to a primary school for the year before; the transition is slightly easier as they have been used to being around the bigger children and having assemblies with them, but if they are new to the school it can be even more daunting.
So here are some tips to help your child (and you) adjust to this milestone….
- Visit the school– most schools invite new starters and their parent/s into school for an informal getting to know them/story time which is a great opportunity for them to see their classroom, meet the teacher and some of their new classmates.
- Home Visits– many schools now operate home visits where the teacher and teaching assistant will come to each new starter’s home and talk to them about their likes and dislikes and ask if they have any questions about school; which relaxes them and makes it less scary.
- Make uniform shopping fun!– make a day of it and go uniform shopping together to buy their clothes, shoes, coat and P.E. kit but try to choose clothes that are easy to put on. Young kids can’t cope with fiddly buttons, buckles, zips and fasteners so look for elasticated skirts and shorts that you can adjust and school shoes and trainers with Velcro fastenings. Let them choose their new lunch box as an extra treat and to make them feel like they are a big boy or girl! At home help them practise dressing and undressing so they will be quicker in the mornings and able to get dressed again after P.E.
- Go to the Library– take a trip to the local library to borrow some books on starting school that you can read together over the summer and for them to learn about activities they will do at school. It will also encourage them to let you know if they have any worries. Any other reading you can do together will stand them in good stead for the big step of learning to read independently.
- Toilet Training– although the majority of children are toilet trained by the time they start school; encourage them to go independently, clean themselves and practice their handwashing as they won’t always have someone helping them.
- Teach them to recognise their name– make sure they know what their first name and surname looks like so they will see where their peg is, which table they will be sitting at and recognise their books.
- Teach them to write their own name – get them to practise writing their own name with a capital letter at the start and lowercase for the rest as this is how they will be taught.
- Label everything– make sure every item of clothing is labelled and nowadays you don’t need to worry about sewing them on as you can get iron on labels, stick on labels or just write their name with a permanent marker inside their clothes, shoes and bags
Let them help with their lunchbox– ask them to choose what they would like to eat on their first day (within reason) so they can look forward to eating it at lunchtime and pack a little surprise in to let them know you are thinking of them.
Get there early– to avoid any stress on the morning and extra worry; get ready and be at school in plenty of time so you don’t need to rush and have them in a panic.
- Go in the classroom with them– if you are allowed to take your child into their classroom, show them their peg so they can hang their P.E kit, spare clothes and coat up and find their drawer where their artwork and letters to come home will be stored.
- Try not to cry in front of them– This will be hard but after reassuring them how great school is and how much fun they will have it; it will confuse them if you end up crying so try to wait until you get outside…
- Speak to other parents– it is important to build up a bond with other new parents to meet up and encourage relationships; along with plenty of organised playdates for your kids to get together and make lasting friendships.
- Get them to bed early– starting school is exhausting for children - emotionally, physically, socially and mentally as they will be trying their hardest to fit into a new environment so, getting them to bed early in those first few weeks will avoid them falling asleep at school.
Remember this is a big day for both you and your child and although it will be emotional; it’s their first step in gaining independence and making their way in the big wide world so try to enjoy it too!