Preparing for the First Day At School
Starting school is an exciting time but also presents a big transition in a child’s life and family life particularly if it’s your youngest or oldest. Parent can often feel anxious that their child will not settle or perhaps not know anybody. It is well worth remembering that most children love school.
In the run up to the big first day, there are practical preparations you can do to help your child settle, make it less stressful and embrace change in a positive manner!
Get familiar with the school run
Walk or drive past school and look for interesting things on the route. Point out appealing features such as the school playing fields or a local park you may visit.
Get familiar with new routines
Begin establishing routines that are compatible with school hours so it’s not such a shock to the system! Start trying to mirror the school day by getting up at school time, snack at a similar time, having lunch at 12 and setting the bedtime routine. A relaxing bath and story instead of TV and tablet to wind down. Make time in the evening to chat about the day and share fun times and worries. If your child is still taking a nap phase this out and replace with down time like jigsaws, colouring and stories.
Get comfortable in the uniform
Wear uniform, new shoes, plimsolls and PE kit and practise any tricky fastenings. Don’t forget to label everything and show your child exactly where that is!
When the time comes pack the PE bag and school bag together so they know exactly what is inside and include at least a spare pair of pants and socks in case of accidents (check the school’s requirements on this).
Practise separation routines
If you leave them anywhere use a set phrase and action. The familiarity of this routine will reassure your child eg: “Have a lovely day, I will see you soon” (hug, high 5!).
Encourage independence in self-care skills
Encourage your child to independently use the loo, wash hands, tidy up, look after possessions and feed themselves. (Look back to weeks 2 and 3 for more information on independence skills).
If having a packed lunch practise using the lunch box opening it and taking the tops off, asking for help if needed, eating the lunch, preferably savoury first and tidying away.
Chat about starting school
Keep chatting positively about school and about how much fun it will be. Being able to talk about what they think and explain how they feel are top priority. Share ideas:-
What do you think school will be like?
What are you most looking forward to?
Is there anything you are worried about?
Read some books about starting school and give them the opportunity to discuss any worries. If your child has particular worries provide reassurance by discussing what to do and who to tell to help build confidence. Common worries are toileting, eating and separation. Keep the focus on the things they’ll really enjoy at school – maybe the water tray, new friends or playing outside.
Share the school info
Share the welcome booklet, prospectus or website and remind them of staff names and faces.
Communicate with school
If there is anything you are not sure about or anything specific to your child eg any special needs, medical problems don’t hesitate to share this with the class teacher. If your child has a particular worry talk about these concerns too so you can work on strategies to address these.
Ensure you start off on the right foot with the school. Be friendly and open in phone calls, emails and any visits. Developing early positive relationships benefit you both.
Sending a postcard is a great way to connect with your child’s first teacher. Hopefully it will spark a conversation opener, be displayed on the wall or even provide that golden nugget of information needed to help settle your child on their first day.
Teach key phrases
Don’t worry if your child hasn’t attended preschool or at least not for some time lately. Most children makes friends easily. Teach them useful phrases for making friends: like “Can I join in?”, “Do you want to share?”, “My name is…” “What is your name?”
Practise what to say in key situations, such as: “Good morning Mrs…” and “Please may I go to the toilet?” – much more appropriate I hasten to add than “I need a poo!”
Who will take me to school?
Talk this through. If you are introducing a new child care arrangement a settling in session would be ideal. Try putting together a wall chart of the week to help your child know what to expect.
If you think your child will be clingy and not want to leave you in fear of missing out let them know your plans the duller the better!
Organise a treat for the end of the school day
Having something to look forward to can help ease the transition into school. Nothing taxing as they may be tired, perhaps simply a favourite supper or ice cream on the way home.
…And some things to avoid when your child is starting school
- It’s only natural to feel nervous about your child starting school but remember that children easily pick up on your emotions. Try to be relaxed and positive.
- Discourage people from making negative comments about personal experiences of school which may give your child a negative attitude.
- Don’t bombard your child with endless school natter. Be matter of fact and give them chance to adapt before they share information with you.
- Try not to over-hype school as your child may feel let down if it doesn’t live up to expectations.
Your first week checklist
- Make sure you know exactly where to drop off and collect and at what time
- Ensure you know what they need for the first few days (PE kit, spare clothes, book bag)
- Does your child know who’ll be collecting them each day and share this with the class teacher
- Do you know the procedure on the first day? Do you take them your child into the classroom and settle them or are they expected to go in on their own?
- If possible book the morning off work or at least let them know you’ll be late in.
- Have you labelled absolutely everything?
- If your child seems anxious about school focus your discussions around what your child likes to do eg: riding the bikes.
Finally, acknowledge the change in a positive way as something exciting and the next step. A child needs to feel their parent is fine about the change and this will reflect in their confidence.
Stamptastic in partnership with Jo and Lisa, look forward to taking you on this journey to support your childdevelop the necessary skills to feel smart and confident from day one at BIG school.
Other blog posts you may find useful: