Starting School, with Jake
The end of summer can be a strange time of year. Those long sun dappled evenings draw further in. We smile wistfully at recent memories of sand between toes, ice cream dripping down fingers and brilliant blue skies. But at the same time there is that inevitable feeling in our stomach, the feeling that something is coming to an end and something else is waiting around the corner to begin. That something for many children is the very beginning of one of the greatest adventures of their lives: school.
The thought of summer’s end and ‘real’ life starting again can be difficult for children to grapple with, especially children who can’t picture what lies ahead. For them school can still feel like an abstract concept, outside of their small world. We can help our little ones feel more prepared, more relaxed and ultimately, excited to enter the classroom.
There are no perfect answers - all our children are different - but read on for some practical tips on how to prepare them for their big adventure.
- Communication is key. Talk to your little one about the name of the school, the uniform, the teachers - discussing the practical aspects of their new school can begin to help them process the change.
- Initiate conversations about how they are feeling. Share their excitement but also let them know it’s ok to be nervous; nerves are a perfectly natural response to any kind of big change.
- Talk about your own experiences of school - what was it like when you first started school, what was your uniform like, who was your teacher, what did you learn. To know that you had a similar experience can be comforting.
- Walk, cycle, scoot or drive the school run. However you are going to get to school, practise the route; familiarise yourselves with the journey you will be taking every day for the next few years
- Try on the uniform, encouraging your little one to do it as independently as possible. Same goes for those new school shoes (mmmm, new shoes). The more they can do themselves the better, but don’t worry if they haven’t quite mastered all the buttons and clips and zips - they will get there
- Practise going to the toilet independently, wiping properly, pulling up pants, flushing the chain and washing hands. If your child is prone to accidents, be prepared by putting a change of underwear in their bag and talk to their teacher
- Remember your little one is sharing this experience with 30 other children - it’s good to help them prepare to share.
- Play games together, make puzzles, build Lego - with an emphasis on taking turns and sharing.
- Share a story, read to your little one as much as you can. Encourage them to ask questions and discuss it together.
- Start to get your child familiar with how their name looks written down. If they can recognise their name then they will be more prepared to navigate the classroom - finding their peg or their own drawer.
- You can begin to help them practise writing their name too, even just practising holding a pencil is very useful. Again, don’t worry if they aren’t quite there with this, reassure them that they will do lots of practice at school.
- Prepare everything you need for the first day the night before, uniform, bag, lunch etc. Try and make the morning routine as relaxed as possible; early preparation is key to this.
Not only is starting school a big change for our little ones, it’s also a big change for us parents - for you.
The house may suddenly feel very quiet so make sure you take some time for yourself, take the time to do the things that make you happy.
It’s ok to feel nervous. It’s ok to feel emotional.
And most importantly, it’s ok to take a thousand photographs of them in their uniform!