Starting at school is a big milestone for children. It might be their first time away from home, or it could be a shift into a routine – from one or two days a week at daycare, to five days a week at “big school”. There are an abundance of emotions – from excitement to fear – and a whole lot of change about to hit their lives.
It’s not easy for children or parents, but the more prepared you are before the first day, the better it will be for everyone (teachers inclusive). Here are the best tips for a smoother transition:
Start the love of learning young
The more dependent your child is on you, the harder it will be when they first start school. Instead, start teaching them how to be independent, to do things for themselves, and to be confident. Read to them, play, and stimulate their imagination through park visits or nature walks, play sports, or board games with them. All of this helps them to develop a keen love of learning.
Get them into routines
You should also start getting your child into a routine of going to bed early, waking up at a certain time, and eating a healthy breakfast. When they get to school they’ll need to understand that things are done at a certain time, not when they want it done.
They need to line up to go inside and outside, sit and listen – and wait to speak until it’s their turn. And most importantly, they’ll have to be able to sit still for an extended period of time.
Don’t underestimate kindergarten
Approved Kindergarten programs are specifically designed to get children ready for school. It introduces children to schedules and lessons, and of course starts the learning process of recognizing letters and numbers, even writing their own name.
There are plenty of options available as well, with some schools sticking to the Early Years Learning Framework, while others focus more on the STEM or Montessori methods of learning.
Visit the school first
A great way to introduce your little one, particularly if they don’t have older siblings, is to visit the school they’ll be attending before they start. Whether you call and book an appointment for a tour, or you sign up to their Open Day, if your child is familiar with the school prior to their first day it will make them feel a lot more comfortable on arrival.
You could also arrange for them to meet their new teacher, though this service is usually provided by schools anyway in the latter half of the previous year.
Prepare in advance
Rushing around at 8 am stressing about making it to class on time for the first day isn’t going to do your child (or you) any good. Make sure you’re prepared in advance. Have your child try on their uniform and shoes before the first day to ensure everything fits.
Choose a school bag that’s comfortable, such as a backpack; and a lunchbox that has an easy to open lid. Children often don’t have the chance to ask their teacher to open their lunch and it’s not uncommon for them to go without for fear of asking for help. Practice opening and closing it at home before you go.
Make it a big deal, but not too big
Starting school is exciting, but it can certainly bring about anxiety as well – for your child and yourself. It’s great to make a big deal about school and try to help your child feel positive about it, but if you notice they have any concerns, talk to them about it. You might read books that talk about starting school and even organize playdates prior to the first day with other children in the class.
Send them a positive message that starting school will be fun, and be sure to keep your own emotions in check as well. Children feed off the emotions of their parents. And if they struggle to leave you at the door, try to create a special routine for saying goodbye to your child each day – don’t make a big deal out of it and ensure your child is playing a part in any rituals that might be in place (such as lining up at the door).