Most people have vivid memories of their first day of school. It’s such an important milestone for them, and for you! As the big day approaches, here are some tips to make it go as smoothly as possible.
If you have been away over the summer, try and incorporate the school building into some trips to the park/shops on your return to town so the school gates don't seem daunting.
Nurseries and schools all agree that one of the most important things you can do to help your child is to give them some independence. “Can they put on their own shoes? Coat? Socks? Do they tidy up after themselves?”
Encouraging your child to dress and undress for themselves at home will help prepare them for changing for ballet, sports, swimming etc. Do get them to put things away at home as they will be expected to help tidy up the classroom each day and look after school property.
“Showing your child how to fold their clothes and keep them together will also prevent lost uniform,” says Katherine Atherton, Head of Early Years at Parkgate House School. Don’t forget to label everything and show your child the label so that they can recognise it.
Make sure your child can use a knife and fork confidently as the likelihood is that they will have school dinners. Encourage them to try new foods as hopefully this will make them more adventurous at school where the menu will change every day. If your child is taking a packed lunch or a snack to school make sure they can open the containers and any of the snacks too.
Being able to use the loo and wash their hands afterwards will encourage your child to feel independent. “It can be common for children to wet themselves at school, especially in the first few terms so we ask parents to bring spare clothes in just in case,” says Katherine Atherton.
Over the summer holidays it can be easy to get out of the habit of getting up early enough to be ready for the school day so days can feel very long when they start school in September. “It is normal for your child to feel tired in the first few weeks of term but to help them ease into the routine, encourage them to get up, washed and dressed earlier towards the end of the summer holidays,” advises Katherine Atherton.
Socialise & Communicate
Focus on social readiness for school rather than academic, says Henrietta Corbett, Registrar at Redcliffe School. Reassure your child that there will be other children starting school on the same day. If possible, arrange a play date before the big day.
It’s also important to encourage your child to communicate with other adults as they will have to do this at school. You can help by chatting to your child about the world around them and introducing them to your friends.
Children will start school with a range of experience, with some having gone to nursery and others staying at home. Don't fuss at what stage your child is at.
Uniform & Roleplay
Buy the uniform nice and early so that your child can get familiar with it and practise getting changed into their sports kit, karate kit etc. Shoes with Velcro fastenings are a must! School staff will of course help them with fiddly buttons but the more your child can do on their own, the better.
Play ‘schools’ at home together. This will allow you to talk about the school in a positive and reassuring way. It’s a fun and easy way to talk about the school day and introduce what actually happens in the class room.
Talking & Books
Talk regularly with your child about starting school. “Children’s feelings about starting school can vary enormously. Some can’t wait to start while some find the whole idea upsetting and stressful,” says Joanne Allen, Vice-Principal of The Kindergartens.
Spending time reading our recommended books (below) with your child during the weeks before school starts provides an opportunity to ask questions and talk through any worries or questions they may have.
‘Starting School’ by Janet and Allen Ahlberg
'Topsy and Tim Start School’ by Gareth Adams
The Biff and Chip ‘Let’s Get Ready for School’ by Roderick Hunt
‘The Gotcha Smile’ by Rita Phillips Mitchel
The Big Day
On the big day keep smiling however emotional you may feel. It will show your child that you are happy about them going to school.Try
not to hang around too long as it can make the separation more emotional. And don’t forget to get that photo of them looking pristine as they leave the house, as it won’t last long!
Suzie Skipper, 2019