Starting School: Things I Wish I Knew
Updated: May 17
That time in your child’s life has finally arrived and you will be excited, nervous and quite teary at the idea of your baby becoming a big boy/girl in September. Here are some tips for you to focus on and get organised so the transition can be an enjoyable experience for both of you.
Child's Own Diary
A child is never too young to take some responsibility and be aware of routine and their own needs. Having their own diary of what’s needed each day with you overseeing it will help them to grow their self-confidence in themselves and independence. Sports day, photo day, trips and special dress up days can all be written in their diary and this will help to make it easier for you to get them interested and prepared.
Your school will have a welcome pack for new parents; be sure to take the time to read it and get prepared. Keep it somewhere safe to go back to. There is a lot to take in and it’s always a good idea to check your knowledge and understanding.
Be sure to label everything because some are sure to go missing at some point. It's better than them being added to the 100’s of lost school items every week. Get your child to pop a note in their diary for label checking each half term. The labels can become faded or even fall off.
It’s very easy on a bright sunny morning to leave the house without a coat. Purchase a cheap rain coat in a bag and make sure it’s in the child’s bag for those occasions when the rain decides to pour. Again remember to put a note in the diary to check the size. It’s very easy to forget about it and when the time comes for your child to need it, you don’t want it to be too small.
Every child will have their own water bottle in school. It’s a good idea to purchase more than 2 and rotate them. Make sure your child’s water bottle is unique and recognisable to them. With 30 water bottles in a class room there will be many the same. Get your child to decorate their bottle and make sure their name is clear and permanent. It’s also easy for the child to forget to bring it home so having a replacement will help. Keep the bottles clean and fresh and always be sure to clean around the small parts.
It’s very easy to feed your child your own nervousness and anxiety at hand over. Be aware of this and remember if you have confidence, your child will copy and less likely to be clingy. Stand back and don’t hover or drag out the goodbye. Don’t go on about how much you will miss them but be happy and bright and positive about both your days without each other. Don’t take up a teacher’s time with details of your child unless it’s absolutely necessary. Your school will have a system set up for you to get a message to the teacher without it being shared at hand over time and with other children and parents. If your child finds it difficult at drop off, get help from another family member and brake the habit. Children behave differently for different people in their family and it’s usually the main care giver that they act up for because they are more secure with them.
Make sure you keep the school informed of any changes in your personal details for contact. This is something we can easily forget when we change our mobile phone number. Note this reminder each half term to check no changes to the information the school have for you.
Think about what your child is wearing on PE day and make sure it’s easy for him/her to remove and put back on. They will be expected to undress and dress themselves so be sure to start teaching your child this important task well before they start school. Have a separate bag inside the PE bag for the pumps. This will keep the clothes cleaner and less crumpled. It’s also a good idea to size check and make a diary note to do this regularly.
Make sure you let the school know about all their medical needs and keep a check on dates of items the office have for your child. Pop the expiry date in the diary so it’s easier to remember.
Parking problems outside schools is a major concern and ongoing problem. If it's necessary to drive your child to school, give yourself plenty of time to find a safe and appropriate parking space that will not cause disruption to others or an angry resident objecting to your choice and giving your child an uncomfortable start to their day. Park a distance from the school and walk some of the way. This will give them a douse of fresh air and exercise, and give you a chance to chat and meet other parents and children. Your child will find it much easier to gain confidence when they see others doing the same.
Your child will need to be independent at food time so teach him/her to cut up food, pour their own drink and make good choices well before the start of school. It’s a good idea to teach them about food and what things are, too; they will come across foods they may not have tried before so it can be a good idea to get the schools menu planner and cook some of the things at home so the child knows what the choices are.
It’s very easy after a busy day to miss an important letter and can end up at the bottom of the bag amongst the banana peel and become unreadable. Every day, empty and check your child’s bag, together if possible.
It’s very common for young children to want to take personal items into school for security as well as to show the teacher and new friends. Start as you mean to go on and don’t encourage items being taken into the school. Let them have them until hand over and return home with them if it’s necessary. Encourage your child to take a photo in if they find it difficult. Most schools have a show and tell day and your child can take in their awards, trophies or talk about a special day out or experience. Be sure to pop this in the diary. It’s a great confidence builder and will prepare them for school plays and special assemblies if they first start by speaking up in front of their class friends.
There is no getting away from this and all schools have it so keep your child’s hair checked regularly and have solutions and combs in the home. Keep long hair tied up. You can also buy some natural preventative shampoos and wash your child’s hair once or twice a week in these solutions that might help them to stay at bay.
Friends After School
Try to encourage after school play dates with class friends to encourage friendship building. You never know when you might need that network of support and contact with other parents in your child’s class to pick up or just ask about information you may have missed. Be sure to encourage more than one though. Children fall in and out of friendships very quickly and it’s a good idea to make sure they have a mixture of friends, not just one special one.
Start as you mean to go on and encourage reading every evening and sign the reading journal. It does not always have to be the school book provided and can be a magazine, home book, leaflet or even the school newsletter that they have read out to you. If you find it difficult to motivate your child to read and they have a special interest in football or dinosaurs then find things they can read that include the things that they are interested in. Be sure to make use of the diary for dates of homework to be completed by. You can get a list of spellings and maths from the teacher that your child is required to learn for their age and stage and set your own homework at home instead of waiting for the teacher to set homework.
After School Tension
Don’t be surprised if your child saves all their negative energy for you when they come out of school. It can be a good idea to have an after school snack ready at pick up time and a fresh drink and perhaps discuss with your child what they will be doing after school so they come out focused and excited for the next part of the day.
Make sure that money and forms are in strong, sealed envelope clearly labelled with your child’s name that go into school.
I have saved the most important tip till last. I learnt a hard lesson with my first child who often started to protest her poorly tummy or bad head in the morning and my anxiety and guilt would take over and I would worry I was making her go into school when she was ill. She soon worked out how to manipulate the situation and had far too many days off. This didn’t help her keep friends and she would often feel out of things within the class because she wasn’t there the previous day and a new project had started or game at playtime that she wasn’t privy to.
Like adults, most children will some days they find hard to motivate themselves to get up and dressed for the day ahead and invent a good reason why they need to stay at home. Unless it’s clear my child is ill and she has shown signs of an illness the evening before, I tell her that if she is feeling unwell she still needs to get up and dressed to go to the doctors and the doctor will let the school know if she is unwell. She would soon have a miraculous recovery once dressed and prefer to go to school.
I am sure there are many more tips and I hope these will help you and your child enjoy the experience of the school journey. In the lead up to starting school, try not to talk about 'big school' and the new experience too much and remember to always talk about it with positivity and happiness so your child will look forward to their next step and good luck.