The first few weeks of school can be a nerve-racking time for both of you and your child. To help make this big change a little bit easier, here are our top ten tips for starting school:
1. Visit the school together
Take your child to visit their new school and ask if they can be shown all of the places that will be important to them during their first week, such as their classroom, cloakroom and toilets. The more familiar they are with their environment, the more at ease they will feel on their first day.
2. Meet the teacher
Encourage your child to speak to their teacher and share a few bits of special information, such as the name of their favourite toy or their love of dancing. Ask simple questions about the school day that your child will understand and find out what sort of activities they will be doing during their first week. Before your meeting, find out if your child has anything they’d like to ask their teacher so that you can speak on their behalf if they have a moment of shyness.
3. Share books about starting school
There are lots of excellent books about starting school that you can buy or borrow from a library. Sharing these books can help children to talk through any fears they might have and can be a great way of starting a conversation about what it will be like at school. Here are our favourite books about starting school.
4. Read, read, read
One the best ways to prepare your child for school is by reading to them every day. Studies have shown that children who are read to regularly perform better academically than those who go without. If you are already reading picture books with your child, now is a great time to start introducing non-fiction and simple chapter books. But, no matter what you read together, your child is certain to benefit enormously.
5. Name recognition
Teach them to recognise and write their name using a capital letter at the beginning. If you child isn’t quite ready to hold a pen or pencil yet, you can help them to practice by showing them how to draw their name in a tray of sand or by using letter blocks. You can also find lots more name writing ideas here.
6. Teach them the alphabet
To give your child a head start, help them to learn the alphabet and the sound that each letter makes. At school your child will be taught a phonics learning system where the emphasis is placed on learning letter sounds rather than the name of the letter itself. This Cbeebies Alphablocks video demonstrates how each of the sounds are pronounced and you can find more fun alphabet games here.
7. Prepare them for lunch time
From September 2014, all children from reception to year 2 were entitled to free school meals. If they are having a hot meal at school, children will need to know how to use a knife and fork and carry a tray of food. If you decide to give your child a packed lunch, make sure that they are able open their lunch box and any packs or containers you intend to give them.
8. Go on a big kid’s shopping trip
Turn uniform shopping into an adventure. Most children love buying and trying on their smart new school clothes, so take the opportunity to build up some excitement about their big day. If you can, leave any siblings at home so that the outing will be less stressful. Choose clothing with fastenings that are easy to use, such as Velcro rather than lace-up shoes.
Encourage them to practice putting on their clothes home so that they can be confident about dressing independently at school. Teach them how to fix clothes that are inside out and show them that labels usually go at the back.
9. Label EVERYTHING
Small children are pros at losing jumpers and coming home in someone else’s trousers. Write your child’s name on all clothing labels and on the inside of shoes with permanent marker. Alternatively, buy iron-on name tags that you can attach in easily visible areas. Remember to label gloves, hats and scarves, too. Gloves can also be sewn onto a length of elastic and threaded through coat sleeves to make them impossible to lose.
10. Encourage them to talk
Make sure your child knows that they should always talk to a grown up if they are worried about anything. Even something as simple as a lost sock can make a child feel very anxious, so it’s really important that they know their teachers are there to help them resolve any problems they may have. Ensuring that they know what to do if they feel sick or have an accident will help your child feel more confident as they get used to their new environment.