Our guest blogger Adrienne from Stylish Bump gives us her top tips for all those parents with children starting their first day school
Buying all the essentials and filling in all the forms aside, preparing your child emotionally and practically with both life and learning skills will really help them (and you) enjoy their first day, and settle into school much more easily. Every child is different, and each child’s journey is going to be a unique one, but take some of these helpful tips on board before that first day to help their transition into school life a much less stressful one.
Prepare them at their own pace in life skills. Don’t worry too much about academic preparedness. Ensuring your child can write and read their name is important. I also have made sure that my daughter Ava knows her home address, my mobile phone number and can write and spell her first and surname.
Going to the bathroom
Teach them to go to the toilet by themselves: to wipe their own bottom and to wash their hands. Explain the importance of washing their hands with soap after every time they go to the toilet, especially with all the bugs that are carried throughout the schoolyard. This one is particularly common in our household, so also teach them to recognise when they need to go to the toilet and put their hand up, or ask the teacher, NOT hold on. My daughter is notorious for waiting ‘til the last minute to go to the toilet, so helping her to realise as soon as she needs to go she should go has been our focus.
Hi my name is...
Encourage them to be social, to introduce themselves to other children and to answer when they’re spoken to – either by an adult or another child. Explain to them that there’ll be lots of children at school, lots more than at the playground or at Kinder, and that it’s important to feel confident enough to introduce yourself – afterall, Mummy or Daddy won’t be there to do it for them. Kids can get anxious about having no friends, so helping them to introduce themselves and to not be afraid to speak to kids they don’t know will really help them make new friends – and they’ll have new best friends by the end of the day!
Ask for help
Encourage them to ask questions and to speak to the teacher if they need to. If they don’t understand a task or question, teach them to ask. Remind them that if they don’t know something, whether it’s where their bag is, where the toilet is or what time they can eat lunch, it’s ok to ask. School is a whole new routine, set of rules and environment for them, so preparing them as much as possible will help them be happy and confident.
As a former Journalist and Literature graduate I’m a staunch advocate for reading to your children every night. Even for babies reading is extremely important. Amongst all the benefits, it helps them to learn language, form sentences correctly, develop their vocabulary and to listen. Reading to your child is also a great way to prepare them for school. As school nears start to read longer chapter-style books, so they get used to hearing part of a longer story over several days, or weeks. These books also help imagination and visualisation (no pictures to rely on), help them to practice patience and encourages avid listening, as well as developing language.
Go shopping together for school essentials
This is not only a practical way to get your child excited about school, but also mitigates any tears when you’ve bought the wrong colour drink bottle! I took my daughter out of Kinder for the afternoon to take her uniform shopping without her younger sisters, so she felt extra special. We had a fun afternoon trying all the different sizes and uniforms available. She really found it fun to choose socks, sports socks, a drink bottle, lunch box and all the other things she thought she might need.
Label everything – every dress, shirt, polo, t-shirt, jumper, hat and so on. One mum advised me to label all their clothing with iron-on tape AND write on each garment in a discreet place with permanent marker. This not only helps the child to identify lost belongings, but also helps them know which is theirs when every other child is wearing the same thing. Write on their shoes in permanent marker. Another great piece of advice I read was to draw half of a smiley face in the left shoe and the other half in the right shoe (or a butterfly, football etc), so that when they are held together they match like a puzzle. This is a quick and easy way to help your child know which foot each shoe goes on. Saves them putting their shoes on the wrong feet!
Footwear and clothing
And it might sound obvious but don’t buy your child lace-up shoes if they can’t get tie laces. Even if they’re learning, or have just learnt to do it and want them. Teachers have enough on their plate without having to worry about tying shoelaces for 20 children, and so will your child, so valcro is best for this age. Likewise, don’t dress them in clothing with buttons or press studs or clips that they can’t fasten or undo themselves.
Visit the school
It might sound like the obvious thing to do, but to visit the school a couple of times and get familiar with the surroundings, the classrooms, the playground will really help your child to feel more familiar and comfortable on their first day. Knowing where their classroom is, where the school gates are and – most importantly for a 5 year old – the playground is, will put them more at ease.
Practice getting to and from the school beforehand
Not only the school itself, but get yourself and your child familiar with the route. On the day of the fete at our chose Primary School my daughter rode her bike and I walked along beside her to the school. Together we found a good way to get there with less traffic, we discovered it took us 10 minutes to get there and we found the entrance gate closest to our house. It also helped me to see what car parking was available, often very minimal at all schools, which streets (and back streets) to take and familiarise ourselves with the immediate area.
Meet the teacher
It wasn’t until we went to the final orientation day at our chosen Primary School that we got to meet the teacher, and I realised that at this particular Primary School, all the teachers are called by their first name! I was surprised, but quickly thought what a great idea; to make the children feel more comfortable and to remove the formality associated with Primary School teachers and small children. Every school is different, so ensuring you’re familiar with your school, how they operate, their administration and teaching staff will make you feel more at ease about leaving your baby with them!
Talk to other children also starting school
Chatting to other children about starting school, and older children about their school experience in an informal ‘how’s school?’ will give your child a peer’s perspective on school. It also takes the pressure and attention off them, and helps them to realise that school is for EVERYONE!
Remain upbeat and talk about your own school life positively
Without sounding ancient, I have talked to my daughter about my school experience and kept it relevant and at her level. My daughter loves the playground and reading, so we talk about those things in particular. Remembering how much I loved the monkey bars, and what a huge library full of interesting and new books she’ll be able to use... that sort of thing, keeps her interested and thinking about school in a positive way.
On the day
Don’t rush them On the day try to get them up at their regular time and get ready together. I have been guilty of yelling the ‘quickly, hurry, put your shoes on!’ to my girls before Kinder when I’m rushing to get out the door, but on this occasion it’s important to be prepared and allow plenty of time to get ready.
Eat breakfast I was honestly shocked by the stats quoted at the school as to how many children go to school without breakfast. Not just a healthy breakfast, but ANY breakfast at all. My girls have either porridge or muesli in the morning, often followed by toast, and the first day of school their adrenaline
Don’t be late Rushing to the school gate after the bell has rung is only going to make your child anxious and more nervous. There’s nothing worse than being late to anything, but on an important day like the first day of school it’s especially important to be early. There will be lots of other children, siblings, parents, grandparents and teachers around all chatting and taking photos, so it will be busy time anyway. Try to be at the school 10-15 minutes before the school bell to allow plenty of time to walk them to their class, say hi to the teacher and say goodbye.
Farewells Save your final messages of love and advice on the day for home, on the walk to school or in the car. Not at the school gate or at their classroom door. Thinking about, then saying out aloud things like “I remember when you were born” is only going to upset you more and confuse them. Keep the message simple, have fun, enjoy your day, I’ll see you at 3:30. Might be hard, but think of them!
Don’t cry! This was reinforced to us by the school Principal at our induction meeting, who has no doubt seen far too many children become upset by their teary parents. She kindly and sensibly told us that tears will only upset the child, make them more anxious and create the feeling that starting school is a sad time. Instead, try to be as upbeat and excited for them as possible. It will hopefully rub off on them and help them to start their school journey on a happy note.
Above all, try to keep positive and excited for them as possible, no matter how emotional you’re feeling. If they see their parents happy, excited and positive about them starting school, they will be too.
Just perhaps not TOO excited!