As the summer holidays run away with us, here are my top tips on how to prepare your child for Big School.
1.Establish a routine.
One of the most important aspects of your child starting school is establishing a good routine during the daytime and also at bedtime.
You will need to establish what time your child will start school and decide on a bedtime that will ensure that they have the sufficient amount of sleep. Most experts agree that children need between 9 and 10 hours sleep each night so that they are at their best the following morning and 8 hours would be the minimum.
Once you know what time your child starts school and will need to be up, you can start to establish a set routine for getting up and going to bed. This will help to start to establish a good routine.
As part of the routine each evening ask your child to help choose the clothes they want to wear the next day so that dressing can be relaxed in the morning. Practice preparing a school bag before bed too. Teach them how to use the bathroom alone and to wash their own hands so they can do this at school.
2.Chat and be positive.
Talk to your child about how exciting big school is going to be and try and visit the school several times with your child, even if it is just by walking by the school gate so that your child starts to learn the route for school and starts to become familiar with the school.
This will really help your child feel more comfortable if they know where they are going. On the school tour make sure you show your child where their classroom will be and the bathrooms and any other places they will need to find.
Talk about their new teacher by name so that your child becomes familiar with the teacher’s name, and the name of the school.
Talk to your children about all the wonderful things they will do at Big School and the new friends they will make.
3.Read ‘Starting School’ books together.
There are several really good books you can read to your child before they start school and are really worth buying.
One we use at our setting is Betsy Goes to School, by Helen Stephens, EGMONT, or Going to School (Usborne First Experiences) which you can pick up on ebay for as little as £2.45, or try your local library. This will real help to reinforce what is happening for your child and also help to prepare them.
4.Prepare for emotions.
Big School for little children can be an exhausting experience, emotionally, socially, physically and mentally as they are trying to fit into a new environment and make new friends in a much larger setting than they may have been previously used to. Plan for this.
Be prepared for some tears and to offer as much support and cuddles as may be needed in the first few weeks as they start to establish themselves in this new environment. Encourage them to make new friends at school and also try to get to know some of the other parents so that you can encourage play dates outside of school to help build new friendships.
Remember that school and education is about a partnership between your child’s teachers and you as parents so try and get involved in any way that you can and try to be as supportive as possible.
Try to ensure that your child is now encouraged at home to be as independent as possible. Encourage them to get themselves ready in the mornings by putting on their own clothes and coats and shoes and the same for undressing in the evening times. If it is possible, help them make there own breakfast, with a little support from you of course.
6.Make time for play and skills development.
Ensure your child has time to play and have fun at home and try to introduce things that will help develop their skills at school like activities such as cutting and gluing, play dough and sticking and cooking. Having a child size tape recorder with nursery rhymes that they can listen to will also help to develop rhythm and learn the alphabet and new language skills.
Try to encourage your children to think for themselves and remember that children copy their parents so try to let your child see you reading and writing and of course share books at story time with them.
7.Cherish the first year.
Finally, why not put together a first-year scrap book with pictures and pieces of your child’s first work at school to help them form memories of this important first step.