Starting school is a big step for your child. Help them be ‘school ready’ before their first day.
Starting school is a big milestone – and for a young child, suddenly going into a new environment with a different routine and having so much to learn can be overwhelming. So, before their first day, use the school holidays to help them with the skills they need to have an easier transition to school life:
Can they open their lunchbox? Unwrap their sandwich? Open and close their drink bottle without spilling water everywhere? If your child is used to being served lunch on a plate at day care or at home, using a lunchbox can sometimes be a challenge. In the weeks leading up to starting school, serve your child’s lunch in their lunchbox so they can get used to unpacking their lunch independently. Slowly introducing a ‘recess/play lunch’ and then the lunchtime meal at the times the school schedules lunchtime is also a good idea.
Can they take off and put on their own shoes and socks? Sometimes, depending on the activity, your child may need to take off their shoes and it would take a very long time for a teacher to help 30 students put their shoes back on if they all had trouble doing this. Practice makes perfect –but there are also things you can do to make this task easier.
TIP: Depending on how strict the school’s uniform policy is, ankle socks are easier to put on then high-cut socks. Velcro shoes are also an easier option than lace ups (and also prevent tripping up on untied shoelaces).
Good hygiene – If you always help your child wash their hands, clean up after the toilet and wipe their nose, try to take a step back and help them learn to do these things independently (because after all, you will not be there at school to do these things for them). Remember to pack a spare uniform or change of clothes and underwear in their bag in case they need to change at school (toileting accidents or drink spillages happen to many kids, so it is best to be prepared).
First day checklist
✓ School uniform
✓ School bag
✓ Water bottle
✓ Spare change of clothes
The organised parent
Being organised can make the transition much smoother:
Label everything. Label everything from hats and socks to their uniform and lunchbox. Possessions will get lost or mixed up, so ensuring everything has a name on it will increase the chance of lost items finding their way back to the rightful owner. You can order personalised iron-on labels or you can write directly onto the items using a suitable marker (Artline 750 Marker for Laundry is a good one because it is specifically to label clothes and the writing doesn’t run or smudge in the wash). Waterproof labels are also available to label lunchboxes and drink bottles.
Note: Ensuring your child can recognise their name before they start school is a good skill for them to have to help them identify their belongings.
TIP: If your child’s school’s uniform policy specifies they have a school bag, remember that this means everyone’s is going to look the same. Adding a fun luggage tag will make your child’s bag easily identifiable.
Record memories. Your child will only have one ‘first day’, so if possible try to factor in some extra time to take photographs and write down any funny or memorable things your child says so you can record them in a keepsake. A ‘school years’ book or folder is a great way to record information for each year, such as your child’s teacher’s name, the names of your child’s friends, merit certificates and special excursions and assemblies.
Work out an art storage system. From day one, your child will come home with mountains of artwork, so organise a system early on. Some parents might display a piece on the fridge and then keep a select few for a memory book or scrapbook folder. Another option is to scan artwork, so you can keep them all without having to keep the ever-growing pile of paper.
TIP: Lovely drawings and paintings can be great to use as cards and wrapping paper for Grandparents, aunties/uncles and family friends.
A calm child
If your child is nervous, there are some steps you can take to reassure them even before they go off to their first day:
Do a practice run. Before the first day, get your child dressed in their uniform, pack their lunchbox and bag and drive to the school. This will allow your child to get a feel for the routine before the first day (and will also give you an idea of how long it is likely to take you to get out of the house).
Do you already know any children that will be going to the same school as your child? Knowing that they will see a familiar face on their first day can be reassuring. A great idea is to organise a class playdate (such as simply meeting at the park) within the first couple of weeks of school starting. This is a good way for your child to get to know some new friends and for you to meet some of the parents.
TIP: When your child starts school, they might catch every cold and bug that goes around, so doing everything you can to ensure they are healthy can go a long way to helping to keep the bugs at bay. Providing healthy meals and ensuring they get a good night’s sleep can be good steps. Additionally, there are some products on the market that claim to help reduce the frequency of colds, such as Inner Health Immune Booster for Kids. Ask your GP or health provider for recommendations.
Your child might cry and be upset when you go to leave, and this can be heartbreaking. If your child is suffering some separation anxiety, ask your child’s teacher for some ideas and strategies. Keeping goodbyes short and reminding them that you will be back to pick them up are some effective strategies.