Top Tips for Starting School
Get to know your new school
Many schools offer settling-in events designed to help you and your child get to know your new school, the teachers, the support staff and their new classroom. It is much easier to talk to your children about school when you are both familiar with the setting and the people that will be a part of your child’s everyday life.
Nurseries & Pre-Schools often take children to their new schools (if local), so find out if your child's current setting is offering to do that. Find out when these will be so that you can also start conversations at home about school to prepare them for it.
Some schools also offer home visits where their new teacher comes to your home to get to know your child in an environment that they are comfortable in. This is such a valuable opportunity for everyone to get to know each other and ask any questions you and your child may both have.
(Do not worry that the teacher is coming to judge the state of your home in any way! They are only there to meet you and they don’t care if the carpet has been hoovered or if you’re using your finest tea set!)
Make Play Dates with Children (& Parents)
While attending any settling in days or events, see if your child plays with anyone in particular whilst there that you can arrange a playdate with or just make sure that you get chatting to other parents. Everyone is in the same boat. It may be equally as helpful for your child to have a friend on day one, as it will be for you to have a coffee with a fellow parent once you’ve said goodbye to your children for the first time.
Join Social Media Groups for Parents
Many schools have Facebook Groups or WhatsApp Groups for the parents of new starters. Joining these before your child begins school can be a helpful way to stay on track of all the upcoming events, new changes and a way of making new friendships.
Remember, properly preparing for school is as important for parents as it is for children.
When a child starts school it’s a time of change and uncertainty for everyone but the most important thing you can do is to be positive. From the very first time that you mention going to school, to the visits, to buying their school uniform, on their very first day and beyond; being positive when addressing anything school related can have a lasting impact on the way a child views school. They may still be apprehensive, but if they know that you are excited and that school is an exciting place to be, then they will think that too. Try not to refer to school as 'Big School,'either. Than can have a negative impact in a child's mind.
Turn school related activities into games and adventures. For example, make buying or finding items on the lists of things to get for school a treasure hunt. Make buying the uniform a special day. Get children involved in choosing their name labels and putting them in their clothes. And of course, have fun taking the pictures for their Tales of Me book and sticking them in to make their very own, 'Tale of Starting School'.
Practice makes Perfect
Here are a few things that you can help teach children to do independently that will enable them to feel more confident when starting school.
Teach them to independently put their shoes and socks/tights on. Stick to shoes that don’t have laces unless they know how to tie them. We have some great tricks to help children learn this in our book, 'The Tale of Starting School'.
Can they put their own coats on? Can they turn their jumpers in the right way round? Make up lots of games involving fancy dress and dressing up toys to help children learn these skills.
TIP: Choose a practical coat that they don’t struggle putting on themselves.
Practicing doing up zips and buttons will not only help them with changing after P.E. sessions but it also helps build their fine motor skills which are key to improving their writing.
Can your child recognise their own name? This can be especially helpful if schools have a self-registration system and for finding their peg or book bags.
Help them to practice wiping their own bottoms. Show them how much toilet roll they should use too. Blocked toilets are no fun for anyone.
Read Lots and Lots and Lots of Stories
Getting into the habit of reading together every day or night is the most beneficial habit that you can create for your child before starting school. There are lots of fabulous starting school books which we at Tales of Me HQ highly recommend checking out.
Once you have filled in your Tales of Me book remember to take the time to enjoy reading through it together. The more you read it, the more familiar your child will be getting with the different aspects of starting school. It will focus them on the many things they they can look forward to as well as any worries they may have.
Most importantly though, with preparing for school and once they have begun, remember to trust your instincts and go at your child's pace. We all learn in different ways and we all deal with change in different ways too. That's what makes us unique and our children are no different.