Beginning school for the first time is a key milestone for new pupils and parents alike, and it can be an emotionally difficult time for both. It’s perfectly natural to feel nervous and excited, though with preparation you can manage this period of change to ensure that you and your child enjoy the first of life’s many transitions!
Below are ten top tips that experts recommend to help with the experience.
1. Talk about school
Begin by communicating and ask your child how they are feeling. Is there anything they are excited about and anything that is making them worried? There are a number of books about starting school that you can read together – even the prospectus and website of your chosen school can help initiate these conversations. If your child is worried, try to focus on the many things to look forward to, such as making new friends and the wonderful things they are going to learn.
2. Stay positive – keep calm and smile
It is perfectly natural to feel nervous about your child starting school, but be aware that your child will take their cues from you. Make sure that you are positive when discussing their new school. If you display confidence and enthusiasm, your child is more likely to feel the same and behave accordingly. Be wary of using negative language, even in the service of sound advice (such as “you won’t be able to act this way in school”).
3. Help them develop their independence
The more experience your child has of doing things for themselves, the quicker they will take to the new school environment. There are a number of domestic tasks that can help prepare your child and teach them independence; such as using a knife and fork, sitting upright at the table, washing their hands and tidying up after themselves. If your child has not already mastered toilet training, this is a skill that will definitely build up their confidence. Teachers and support staff are there to help, and will be ready for dealing with all levels of capability. If there is something that your child finds difficult, be sure to inform them so that they can give special attention to any problematic issues.
4. Let them try on their uniform
Trying on their new uniform can be an activity that your child enjoys. Taking pride in looking smart, as well as practicing things like keeping labels at the back and holding sleeves to keep them from riding up will help improve your child’s confidence. Getting dressed and undressed is also an exercise that will be practically useful in preparing your child for P.E. lessons. If they do demonstrate an enthusiasm for their uniform, take a photo and place it somewhere visible – perhaps you could attach it to the fridge? This will help your child to picture themselves at school and allow them to formulate their identity as a pupil-to-be.
5. Help them to recognise their name
Though they won’t be expected to write their own name when school begins, it will be helpful if your child can recognise their name on a coat peg or label. This will also be useful for fostering their independence and confidence. Try placing their name on the bedroom door and putting labels on anything you can. Help your child to identify where a label is located and practice identifying belongings by their name.
6. Play listening games
Listening skills can be practiced through games such as ‘Simon Says’ and ‘I Spy’. These will be important to develop in preparation for following a teacher’s instructions. Once simple instructions have been mastered, more complex directions can follow – try adding several together so that your child can concentrate on following multiple commands (such as “take off your coat, wash your hands and then sit down at the table please”).
7. Make a date
If you know any other children that will be yours’ future classmates, organising a playdate could be an excellent opportunity to help develop their social skills and dispel any worries. Familiar faces can make the first day so much easier. The occasion can be useful to you as a parent too. If the other parents are also experiencing this all for the first time, you can share your feelings and anxieties – if they have older siblings who have been through the process before, their experience could be instructive.
8. Start a routine
This can be well needed practice for you too! It can be a challenge making it out of the house in the morning with a child, especially if you need to keep to a specific time. As the Autumn term approaches, practice the routine so you can both get used to waking in the morning and going to bed at an appropriate time, as well as eating meals when you would on school days. Getting dressed in the morning and eating breakfast to a schedule is important to ensure that you manage to leave home and arrive at school on time. Trialling the school run is a great way to guarantee that you’re fully prepared when the time comes. Before bedtime, baths and stories will help your child to wind down, whilst nutritious meals throughout the day and plenty of sleep each night will be important for helping them to concentrate and learn during their days at school.
9. Take a look at some Early Years resources
PACEY, the Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years has produced some great fact sheets and resources for parents and children about to start school. You may like to have a look at their #ReadyForSchool resources at www.pacey.org.uk/schoolready
10. Communication is key
As this guide began, so it concludes – by stressing the importance of communication! You know your child best and if there’s anything that could help them settle in, be sure to suggest it to their teacher and support staff.
Hopefully this guide will help make starting school the exciting opportunity that it should be! If you have any further questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us at the school – remember, we are here to help!