Starting school is an exciting time for you and your child and you’ll naturally want to help them to best prepare for the adventure ahead. While it may be normal for you to feel a little nervous about your child starting school, remember that they’ll pick up on your emotions and take your lead, so it’s important that you’re relaxed and feeling positive about the change.
Remember also that your child doesn’t need to be able to read, write or do sums before starting school. Children start school with a wide range of abilities, and their teacher will be used to this. What’s most important in those special pre-school months and years is that you and your child have fun when you’re together. All of those hours sharing stories, singing songs, playing games, chatting and encouraging them, helps to build their confidence.
Here are some tips to help you prepare your child for starting school so that you both start school with a smile!
Chat with your child about starting school. What do they think it will be like? What are they most looking forward to? Is there anything they’re unsure or worried about? Look at the school’s prospectus or the website together and talk about the pictures.
Find photos of you and other family members at school, and chat about happy memories from your own school days. If possible, visit the school with your child before they start – either on formal open days, or fêtes, plays and other events.
And some things to avoid
Try not to overload 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 or upset if it doesn’t live up to expectations, find a balance that feels right to you.
At Leap and Learn we help prepare children for school. By reading storybooks about starting school and introducing routines similar to those they will experience when they start, children become familiar with the idea of school. At lunchtime we replicate the way it will be done at school and there are also a couple of school uniforms in the dressing up box so that children are familiar with them.
Promoting your child’s independence in toileting in preparation for school is also important. Working alongside your approach at home, at Leap and Learn we help children become confident about getting to the loo in time, wiping properly, using toilet paper rather than wipes, flushing the toilet and washing their hands. You can also remind your child to ask the teacher if they need the toilet and reassure them that it’s ok if they don’t get there in time. Remember to pack some spare underwear and clothes as well, accidents will happen.
If your child has already spent time in a nursery or pre-school setting, they’ll be used to spending time apart from you, mixing with other children, communicating with other adults and taking some responsibility for tidying up after themselves and looking after their own belongings. But don’t worry if your child hasn’t attended a childcare setting or pre-school. Playing with other children, whether friends and family members, or other children at the park, comes naturally and is good practice for forming friendships with classmates at school.
Children that don’t know one another will usually make friends very easily. If your child does struggle with the change however, teach them some useful phrases such as ‘can I play with you or can I join in? or ‘do you want to share?’ If you already know some other children who will be in your child’s class, organise a play date or outing together before the start of the school term.
It’s also a good idea to establish an open, friendly relationship with your child’s class teacher, ask them when you first meet what are their preferred times and means of communication. Your childs teacher will be an expert at helping young children to settle in and thrive at school, and will be able to reassure you about most issues that come up. If you do have any concerns, raise them early to prevent them from developing into bigger problems.
If there’s anything you think might help your child to feel settled, be sure to suggest it to their class teacher. Remember, you know your own child best.