Getting ready for school can be an exciting but nerve-wracking time for parents and children. You might feel overwhelmed by the amount of information you’ve been given. You might feel you just don’t know enough. Either way, don’t worry, we’re here to help.
In this blog, we’ll run through some of the practical things you can do in the weeks before school starts, to ease the transition for you and your child. Here goes!
Trust the system
The first thing to remember is that this may be your and your child’s first time starting big school, but it’s not the school’s first time to welcome children in. Schools have done this many times before and have tried and trusted techniques to help the children settle, support them as they make new friendships and get them used to school routines. Trust in the system, especially the phased start which can be a logistical nightmare for working parents, and run with it. By all means, raise questions with your child’s teacher to help you understand how things work, but remember they are the experts so be open and flexible to their requests.
Make the transition as easy as possible
The step up from nursery to big school is a huge one for a child. Even if they’ve done full days at nursery, there’s an additional intensity to school as they’re expected to do more for themselves.
Make sure your child knows that the move to school will involve change and allow them to talk about any worries and concerns they have. Try to dispel any fears they have by putting plans in place to help, and generally talk positively about school, reminiscing about the fun times you had and getting them excited about all the new things they will experience.
On a practical level, make sure your child knows what to expect in the first few days and weeks, especially if the school adopts a phased start. That way, they’ll understand why their friend may be doing slightly different hours to them and perhaps not staying for lunch. Ensure too that they know how to get changed, that their uniform (especially items like tights) is neither too tight or tricky to change into, and practise changing from their uniform to P.E. kit and back, so that they are comfortable doing it by themselves.
Help the teacher to get to know your child
Your child’s teacher will have gained some information about your child from their nursery setting (if they had one) but will be keen to know more. Many schools send out packs, which ask for pictures of the people important to the children and some showing what they’ve done over the summer.
Make sure you send your child in with this on the first day, so that your child has the opportunity to share it. If they struggle to communicate their thoughts, the pictures you’ve included will give them something to lean on, and make their first interaction with their teacher a positive one.
Even if your school doesn’t ask you to do this, it’s a good activity for you and your child to undertake together, because your child’s teacher will undoubtedly do getting-to-know-you type activities with the children. As such, it will build their familiarity in talking about your family and build their confidence. Don’t feel that family pictures need to be photographs either. Pictures like the ones you can produce on Busy Things are great for creating representations of families, and allow children to harness their technical and creative skills too!
Many schools also have settling-in conversations with parents over the first few days, giving you the opportunity to let the teacher know about any problems your child has and raise any concerns. Don’t worry if you’re school doesn’t organise these though. Most schools have an open-door policy, so you can catch the teacher before or after school (or by email) and raise any issues and concerns as they happen.
With up to 30 children in a class and every child’s uniform looking pretty much identical, the importance of labelling clothes, coats, shoes and book bags cannot be understated. If you can try and put it in the same place on each item, i.e., at the back of the neck opening/waistband, and tell your child where they’d find the label too, this can really help.
If your child can recognise their own name, they’ll really come into their own here, as they will be able to identify their own clothes, and so be so much more self-reliant.
Getting your child used to keeping their things together is also a good idea. No-one is expecting nice, neat piles of folded clothes, just that each child doesn’t spread their belongings across the whole classroom.
Being prepared to get involved with school activities, and showing a real interest in them, will indicate to your child that school and the activities that go on there are important. It goes without saying you’ll need to help your child with their homework when they get some but take an interest in what they do during the school day too. They may not be very forthcoming with information – especially on the very first days, when they will be tired – so asking questions like “What was the best thing about today?” is often better than simply asking how their day went, which may just result in a one-word response.
Reading with your child is really encouraged, as this is the cornerstone of all learning. Make time for you and your child to read and discuss books that interest your child. The type of book you choose doesn’t matter. It could be a comic or magazine, or a more traditional picture book. The important thing is to inspire a passion for reading and a curiosity about the world around you.
Finally, familiarise yourself with what your child is going to be learning about at school. Busy Things includes a curriculum browser that details all of the learning objectives that the children will be working towards, and has fun games and activities linked to each one! Playing number and letter games like the ones it includes for pre-schoolers in the run up to starting school could certainly help your child. It will give them a confidence boost when they recognise the same numbers and letters around the classroom and understand what the teacher is talking about.
Want even more advice? Parentkind has asked parents that have recently had children start school for their top tips. Find them here.
More starting school support…
This blog is the fourth in our ‘Starting School’ series, which consists of 5 blogs in total. Read the others here: Starting School: Hints and Tips, Starting Primary School: Skills to Encourage, Is Your Child Ready for School, Emotionally and Socially? and Your First Day at School Checklist.
We hope our “Getting Ready for School: A Parent’s Guide” blog has been useful! Please do let us know what you think in the comments and if you have any further ideas to share…