With September looming ever closer, we’ve putting together some top tips to help your child get a head start on their first day at school.
Starting school can be both an exciting and daunting time for children. Those nerve-racking days before school begins will pass in a flash, so it’s a good idea to do a little preparation ahead of the big event.
Most children will settle in easily at school if they have their parents’ support and encouragement. Reception children don’t need to be able to read, write, or be a maths whiz, but there are a few things you can do to help get them ready for the classroom.
If your child has spent time in a childcare setting, they will probably have picked up a number of social and practical skills that will aid them as they adjust to life at school. Many of these skills – like sharing and taking turns – will also have begun to develop outside of a childcare setting through play with other children and family members.
Practicing social skills is an important part of learning how to forming friendships with classmates. Children tend to make friends pretty fast, but if your child finds it difficult, try teaching them a few useful phrases such as ‘can I play with you?’ or ‘do you want to share this with me?’
An active imagination is a powerful tool. Enjoying games and role-play at home can boost your child’s confidence, making it easier for them to get involved at school. The games you play together will inspire creative ideas that will appeal to the other children’s sense of fun.
Possible activities include:
- Playing games that involve taking turns, listening or speaking in front of a group. There are lots of board games available now which encourage an element of performance, too.
- Setting up a pretend ‘school’ using your child’s favourite toys
- Painting, drawing or colouring-in together. These activities help children learn how to sit down and focus for short periods of time. Setting up a domino run or playing simple card games also encourages a similar level of quiet concentration.
- Read starting school books together such as ‘Harry and the Dinosaurs Go to School’ by Ian Whybrow or ‘The Wolf Who Wouldn’t Go to School’ by Carly Hart. This will give your child an opportunity to talk about any fears and help the experience feel less alien and unfamiliar – which is exactly what they need to feel more confident.
Encourage your child’s natural desire for independence by giving them a couple of age-appropriate responsibilities at home. This could be laying the table, putting their own washing away, or making sure a pet has clean water.
Talk to your child about school. Ask them open ended questions and give them plenty of time to answer without interruption. What do they think their first day will be like? What are they most looking forward to? Is there anything they’re worried about? Offer reassurance by explaining where they will be going, what they will be doing, and when they will be coming home.
Here are a few more key activities that you and your child can practice at home:
- Have a trial run of the school morning routine. This will include getting dressed, eating breakfast, and a setting off – all without running late!
- Go school uniform shopping and let them choose as much of it as possible within your budget and their school’s guidelines.
- Allow your child to practice putting on their uniform and then taking it off again. Tights, buttons and zippers can be tricky, so give them extra time to learn how to use these items properly.
- Encourage your child to use the toilet on their own, remembering to wash their hands afterwards.
- Get them used to wiping their own nose with tissue.
- At meal times, teach your child how to use a knife and fork and carry a plate or tray.
- Talk about your own happy memories at school (and avoid describing your worst experiences!).
- Remember not to bombard your child with endless talk about school. It’s may be a big step, but staying relaxed will reassure them that it’s just another one of life’s many activities.