How to prepare your child for school can feel so daunting. The big day is hurtling towards you way too quickly and before you know it it’s suddenly upon you! They won’t be returning to the familiar surroundings, friends and staff of their preschool, but instead going to big school. It’s a milestone in any child’s life and one that has huge significance for parents too, as they hand over their child to the care of someone else for much longer periods.
We all want that special day to go as smoothly and successfully as possible. And it looks like we’re in luck! As parents, we are a powerful force when it comes to our child’s learning journey, including how well and how successful they are at school.
Research has shown that parents are key when it comes to a child’s success in transitioning to big school and in school itself. One simple but effective step, is for a parent to have a positive attitude towards school and learning; even if they didn’t have a positive experience themselves. Instilling a positive attitude can easily be achieved through things such as, talking about your good times at school and reading books that covey a positive message about school.
Preparing your child for school
There’s a host of things you can do in preparing your child for school, to make it less daunting and easier to cope with. You may have heard people talk about children being, ‘school ready’. This generally refers to your child having the skills needed to be successful at school. They include being socially ready, independent, possessing a certain level of communication skills and being academically ready. It’s important to remember though that they are all areas you’ve been working on with your child since they were born. So think of it as expanding and building on these areas.
Being socially ready
Your child has probably been attending a preschool or something similar before starting formal school. They will probably have already mastered many social skills, such as taking turns, being able to follow instructions and playing with other children. Going to school will require them to do these things on a bigger and sometimes harder level. For example, they may be use to a small group and receiving a lot of teacher attention at preschool, which often isn’t the case in most elementary schools. Or the amount of time they had to concentrate may have been been very short and the instructions more simple than those they will encounter at school.
You will have been building your child’s independence with simple tasks, such as getting dressed without or with minimal help. At school, the things they will be required to do on their own will inevitably expand and there’s lots of ways you can help with this before the big day.
Being academically ready
Since birth, you will have taught your child a phenomenal amount. Teachers at school will build upon and expand this knowledge. To make it easier for your child, there are lots of things you can do to set them on the right path for both academic success as well as developing themselves a a whole person.
From birth you have been communicating with your child and have built upon that throughout the critical years from birth to 5 years old. Focusing on your child’s communication skills will be hugely important in order for them to learn to read and write. The skills will also be important to enable them to become competent in being able to express how they feel and what they think.
In some ways you have been preparing your child for school all along; only now it gets a bit more specific. The table below provides you with some ideas of the kinds of activities you can do with your child to get them ready in the areas mentioned above.
How to prepare your child for school: practical considerations
- Talking to your child about what they want in their packed lunches. Eating well when they’re at school is super important. Prepare things that they enjoy eating (to avoid it ending up in the bin!), and if possible, discuss with them what they would like you to prepare. Pack the lunch box together the night before so they know what’s in there. If you’d like some ideas for healthy snacks, you can get a copy of our free healthy snack e-book below.
- Let you child practice opening/closing their new lunch box and/or new water bottle. Explain to them any containers that need to be brought back home or can be put in the bin.
- Become familiar with the school route if it’s a new one and allow plenty of time for traffic.
- A few days before the big day, start the school bedtime and morning routine. This will make getting up easier on the first day.
- Put some spare underwear in their bag, even if it’s been years since they had an accident. Let them know they’re there and that they can change into them if anything unexpected happened.
- Get all your child’s clothes and shoes ready the night before to avoid any potential stress of not finding something.
- Leave in plenty of time to avoid the stress of being late and to give you and your child plenty of time to meet the teacher.
- Label everything. You’ll be amazed at how easily pieces of clothing, bags, water bottles etc. go missing; only to turn up long after you’ve replaced the item!
- Make sure your child gets a good night’s sleep the night before and address any questions or anxieties they may have.
- Prepare for your own emotions. Memories of your time at school may come flooding back and catch you off guard. Look after yourself by arranging to meet a friend or doing something that makes you happy.
An article in the Telegraph on preparing your child for school, (How to prepare your child for school in a few easy steps), by headteacher A. Griggs, also notes that the most successful students (in all senses):
- Have the most sleep
- Have genuine free time
- Have the least screen time
- Do not have tutors
- Experience play at home
- Encouraged to think for themselves
Some Final Thoughts….
Preparing your child for school can be pretty smooth. But sometimes, even the best prepared parent may encounter things they didn’t want to happen and/or didn’t expect. And these things can sometimes be upsetting. My daughter’s first day at school wasn’t that long ago and some things happened that I quite simply didn’t expect. You can read about it in this post. My advice would be to be prepared but also know that things may not be quite as perfect as you want them to be. Thankfully, the issues I had affected me but had no impact on my daughter and her first day at school 🙂
It’s an exciting time for you and your child. If you’re about to experience it, I wish you both the very best and would love to hear about it in the comments below or you can email me on firstname.lastname@example.org
To end with, here’s a sort video by the BBC on children getting ready for the big day!
Related: Preparing for preschool: How Can parents Help?
References: http://www.nea.org/home/59838.htm/https://www.kidsmatter.edu.au/families/enewsletter/how-prepare-big-school/ http://theconversation.com/how-to-gently-prepare-your-child-for-prep-90122/ https://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/0/how-to-prepare-your-child-for-school-in-a-few-easy-steps/