That first day of school is bound to be daunting for anyone, but with a few tips and ideas under your sleeve, your child can walk through their new school's gates feeling confident and ready as ever. From making new friends, getting used to a more formal classroom environment, to being faced with the challenges of more difficult work and new subjects to get stuck into, starting school is scary but such a milestone in our children's lives. So be sure your child has the best start possible as they get ready for this next step. Take a read below at some of our helpful tips and recommendations to make sure your child is prepared for their first day of school.
(Article updated August 2020)
Start A Pretend School
One great way to prepare your child starting school is to set up a pretend school in the house. As you or your partner may be working from home, create a tailored school experience around your working day to let your child get used to the idea of a full day at school. Set little tasks for them to do during their day on a timetable you make for them. There are so many free online learning resources too, your children will certainly not be short of things to do during their day. Make sure you set a proper break time and lunchtime too, with lots of playtimes to mimic all the fun of a school playground.
Let Your Child Get Themselves Ready In The Morning
Getting dressed themselves in the morning is something that your child may not be familiar with yet, which is perfectly okay. But slowly building in these key development skills before they're due to start can really help them get used to when they'll be putting on their school uniform in the morning. For P.E. lessons as well your child will be getting dressed and undressed independently. To make it a bit easier, using shoes with velcro or clothes with zips will give that little helping hand as they learn these new life skills. You can also get your child used to wearing school uniform throughout the day, and practise taking it on and off. Especially if the uniform has some more tricky items like ties and laces! Remember to label these items too with your child's name to avoid any mix-ups when they start.
Help Your Child Make New Friends
School is the time when socialising becomes a key part of your child's everyday life, and building these social skills will really help them out when it comes to making their new friends at school. It is harder to do this while social distancing measures restrict playdates between more than two or three households. However, social apps and social media platforms such as Zoom and FaceTime could be used to help your children get used to talking, conversation and play with other children their age. If you have any family friends who also have children due to start school soon, get connecting virtually to give your child courage and confidence for the next chapter.
Practise Saying Goodbye
Saying goodbye to your child on their first day is bound to be tough for any parent and child alike. However, by practising this now it will make it a lot easier for both parties on the day until you'll both be completely used to it. Dropping your kids off at a friend's house for a few hours to play is a great way to start implementing this. Or, if you're working from home, pretend you're going to work and say goodbye to your child for a few hours whilst you work in the office to mimic a real school and working day.
Practise The School Run
If school is so far away that you'll need to drive, then practising the daily school run is a brilliant way to prepare your children and yourselves to your new routines. Get used to getting in the car together with the school bags, putting the seat belts on, and driving the route you will take to their new school. It's a fantastic way to get the children excited too, maybe even seeing their new school from the outside for the first time. That first drive on the first day won't seem as scary anymore. If you live within walking distance, then make the journey a few times on foot (or scooter).
School isn't all sitting behind a desk, reading and writing. There are a lot of fun outdoor play and art activities, which may result in your child getting a little bit mucky from time to time. Teaching them good personal hygiene skills early is a really useful thing, and should not be taken lightly. Show your children how to wash their hands thoroughly and properly, how to clean up after messier play and the importance of using soap. Making sure your child knows how to use the toilet independently too is another all-important skill that will stand your kid in excellent stead for when they begin school. These are all essential bits of learning for the future too.
Lunchtime at school is always a fun and playful time of the day, and something your hungry children will most certainly be looking forward to once the busier days of school start. Teaching them how to eat independently, ready for when they'll be doing so with their new friends is really important. Also having a go at packing a packed lunch together with healthy snacks and some treats too will make them feel more positive towards this new situation. To make lunchtimes even more exciting, enjoyable and less daunting, there's loads of fun to be had choosing a new lunch box together with your child. With so many to pick from with some of their favourite colours and characters on them, it's something you can send them into school with and know it'll brighten their day.
Most importantly, allow your child to get excited about this new start too. Despite the daunting nature of a new school, it can easily be one of the best times of their lives, meeting new people and learning new things. Encourage your child about the exciting nature of what's to come, and tips like reading books on starting school together and letting them ask you questions is a perfect way to ensure they're as happy as they can be.
Having loved everything art and crafts so much as a child and wanting to pursue this when she grew up, Eleanor recently moved to London from Bath to study for a degree in Fine Art. Eleanor loves exploring the city in her spare time, especially visiting galleries and seeking out new arts events to go to with her partner. When she’s not out enjoying what the capital has to offer, Eleanor is a keen outdoor adventurer and lover of all things travel, always looking for a new destination to discover.