Starting school is an exciting time and a huge milestone for children. As adults, who can possibly forget the excitement, the anticipation, the tinge of nerves on that big day so many years ago? The smell of crayons and textas in our brand-new pencil case, the new school bag, the freshly packed lunch box. There were new school uniforms, hats and shoes – and the daunting thought of being away from home for most of the day! Preparing your child for the big day is exciting and takes a little planning, but as you will see, the planning can be fun experience for you and your child.
Activities to do before the big day
School will be a time of stimulation, excitement, new friends, and plenty of new activities, so it’s important that parents and carers talk about this event in a positive, upbeat manner. Here are a few tips:
- Monitor the child’s reactions when you are talking about school. If the child is inquisitive, take the time to answer any questions that the child may have. If the child seems scared or hesitant, make sure that you take the time to speak regularly about school and encourage the child with positive information and lots of hugs and reassurance.
- As young children have a difficult time conceptualising weeks and months, refer to a calendar where you can block out the weeks and days, counting down the time until school commences.
- Try to read books and other material for children about starting school. This helps the child understand what’s involved, particularly if the child is the first sibling to go to school.
- Introduce the child to routines – this is a great way of getting used to school. If a child gets in the habit of going to bed and waking at a certain time, and activities like getting dressed and brushing teeth early in the morning, the new routine of school will be a less daunting transition.
- A lot of mystery can also be taken out of starting school by visiting the school with the child on a little ‘excursion’. Do the journey to the school on a weekend, like it will be on a typical school day, and let the child explore the playground and have some fun before school actually starts.
Practising useful skills
There is so much that is new at school. Here are useful things to do in preparation…
- Practice going to public toilets and learning what is different compared to using the bathroom at home. For example, there are male and female cubicles with doors to be closed, pants need to be pulled up and down behind those closed doors, boys need to learn how to use a urinal, and so on.
- Children need to learn how to pack and unpack school bags, where everything is located and how to find and protect valuable items such as lunch money or keys.
- Practice eating lunch and have a lunch box to gain familiarity, placing any scraps in the lunchbox afterwards and sealing the lunchbox to take home.
- Do some practice runs in the brand-new school uniform. This can tried on and perhaps even paraded around for the family to offer encouragement, and then worn for a while to ‘wear in’ and become more comfortable.
- It’s advisable that new school shoes or sandals are gradually worn in before the big day so that blisters and chafing don’t cause unnecessary drama. Learning to take on and off sports shoes and tying shoelaces is also a handy skill to help kids feel more autonomous.
- Giving your child some relaxation strategies and aids for if they feel stressed or nervous may be useful, such as giving them a small toy or book to take with them or a favourite water bottle drink to sip on when feeling upset or overwhelmed.
- You could also play some games where people have to raise their hand to say something and wait for their turn to participate.
The big day
Try to be as prepared as possible before this exciting day and remember to relax and enjoy it with your child. Kids pick up on parent’s and carer’s emotions very quickly, so stress and drama are best avoided. These memories will last a lifetime and a positive experience for your child will help them settle in much more quickly (and make the process much easier for you). Importantly, too – don’t forget the camera!
Sage Institute of Child Care – it’s more than a job, it’s a rewarding career.
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