Starting School

27th Aug 2015
Starting School

The first day at primary school is a big step for both children and parents, but a little advanced preparation can help this important milestone go smoothly. Here are some tips to get ready, both emotionally and practically for the big day.

Talk It Over

Chat with your child about starting school. What are they most looking forward to? Is there anything they’re worried about? If they seem anxious, try focusing on the things they’ll like best – maybe the sandpit or playhouse

Read ‘starting school’ books, picking out the fun and exciting activities that are going on and using them as starting points for conversations.

It’s natural to feel nervous about your child starting school, but remember that your child can easily pick up on your emotions. Try to be relaxed and positive, rather than showing your own nerves.

Try not to make comments such as “I hated school” or “I was rubbish at school”, which might give your child a negative attitude.

Don’t bombard your child with endless talk about school – treating it in a matter-of-fact way rather than focusing on the ‘big step ahead’ will help soothe an anxious child.

Don’t over-hype school, as your little one may feel let down if it doesn’t live up to expectations!

Practical Preparations

Go on a special and exciting trip together to buy their uniform and essential items for starting school making it into an adventure rather than a chore.

Buy clothes that are easy to put on. Fiddly buttons, buckles and fasteners can end up being the cause of tears of frustration every time they need the toilet or to change for PE lessons. Simple pull on elasticated waists and velcro fastening shoes are ideal choices.

As the start of term approaches, try to get into the school routine, so your child gets used to getting up, going to bed and having meals at the same times they will on school days.

If your child has naps, it would be wise to try phasing this out. Rather than a nap, maybe offer some down time after lunch instead.

Practise the school morning routine and the school run so that you’re both prepared for the morning journey.

It will help if your child can master some self-care skills before they start school including going to the toilet, washing their hands, dressing and undressing and feeding themselves.

The Big Day

If your child is particularly anxious, give them a little token to remember you by or bring their favourite teddy to school. Check with the teacher that this is OK.

It can help to go into the classroom with your child (if allowed). Show them their peg and where the toilet is, hang up their coat and then take them to the carpet to sit down and kiss them goodbye. This routine can get shorter as the term goes on as the quicker you leave the easier it is for them to settle down.

Try not to cry in front of them as this will upset and confuse them, especially as you’ve been telling them how great school is! If needed, say goodbye and go and have a good cry outside.

If your child is extremely distraught, discuss strategies with the teacher. Reception teachers are experts at looking after upset children and don’t mind if you leave a crying child. Children don’t cry for as long as you imagine they will.

When your child gets home, let them have a rest and snuggle with you or their carer. You may want to let them watch telly for a while to unwind. You can ask them what happened at school but be prepared to hear “nothing”. Try not to interrogate them.

The first few weeks

Don’t worry if your child is tearful and clingy for the first few days – it’s quite normal.

Let your child get used to school life before introducing afterschool activities. It’s a good idea to keep the first few weekends quiet, too, as they will likely need time to recharge.

Some children are enthusiastic about school at first, but once the reality of going to school day after day sets in, they can become reluctant. If this happens with your child, use a calendar to help them understand when weekends and holidays are coming up. You might want to arrange a few treats for them to look forward to as well.

Starting School Picture Books

I am too Absolutely Small for School (Charlie and Lola) by Lauren Child
Starting School by Janet and Allen Ahlberg
Topsy and Tim Start School by Jean and Gareth Adamson
Harry and the Dinosaurs Go to School by Ian Whybrow and Adrian Reynolds
Come to School too, Blue Kangaroo! by Emma Chichester Clark
Going to School Sticker Book and Starting School Sticker Book – Usborne