Starting school is a very exciting time for children but can also make them feel nervous, anxious and scared. Children need to feel settled, calm and safe, and a little preparation from their homes can really help with the transition.
It is really important for children to be aware of themselves when they start school. For example, do children know how old they are? Can they tell an adult if they have hurt themselves? Help your child to memorise the body parts. It will boost your child’s confidence if he or she knows the answers to most questions.
Don’t worry if your child has not been to a childcare setting or preschool before. Playing with other children in any situation is good practice for forming friendships with classmates at school. Children who do not know one another still make friends easily, although it may prove useful to have practiced some easy phrases such as “can I join in?” or “do you want to share?”
As the start of school gets nearer, try to get your child accustomed to getting up, going to sleep, and having meals and snacks at the same times they will on school days. A calming bath time and shared stories rather than TV and tablet screens will all help to wind a child down before bedtime. Making time in the evening to chat about the day can be a lovely routine for sharing fun times together and also any worries. Nutritious meals and plenty of sleep will help children to concentrate, to learn and to enjoy school. If your child still has naps during the day, it would be helpful to gradually reduce these.
With your child
- Have a chat with your child about starting school. What do they think it will be like? Is there anything that they are particularly looking forward to? Is there anything they’re feeling a bit worried about?
- Find photos of yourself and other family members at school, and discuss happy memories from your own school days.
- Practise school morning routines, such as getting dressed and eating breakfast in time to leave.
- Read books together about starting school.
- Look at the school prospectus and website together and talk about the pictures.
- Visit the school with your child before the school year starts.
Books to share
- Harry and the Dinosaurs Go to School by Ian Whybrow
- Come to School too, Blue Kangaroo! by Emma Chichester Clark
- Going to School and Starting School Sticker Book – Usborne
- Starting School by Janet and Allen Ahlberg
- I am too Absolutely Small for School (Charlie and Lola) by Lauren Child
It will make life easier for your child if he or she has mastered these self-care skills before starting school:
Help your child to be confident about getting to the toilet in time and using toilet paper or moist wipes and washing their hands.
Do you have a different phrase or special words for going to the toilet at home? Let the teacher know what these are so they will understand what your child is trying to ask.
Talk about the importance of good hand washing with soap and water or gel, especially after going to the toilet or touching animals. A good way of showing how germs can linger and spread is to let your child cover their hands in glitter (pretend germs!) and then attempt to wash it off.
Dressing and Undressing
Let your child practise putting on their school clothes, taking them off and folding them in preparation for PE lessons, particularly if there are fiddly fastenings such as buttons and zips.
Get your child into the habit of hanging up their coat, putting away their toys and clearing the table to prepare them for doing these things at school. You can turn this into a game.
First Week Checklist
- Do you know exactly where you need to take your child, and at what time?
- Do you know what equipment they’ll need for the first few days? (PE kit, book bag, spare clothes, lunch box)
- Does your child know who’ll be collecting them each day?
- Have you put name labels on everything? Show your child where the labels are, and make sure they are sewn or stuck somewhere that’s easy for them to find.