The first day of school can be an emotional and anxious time for many parents and their children. After all, your child is moving from pre-school to formal education, complete with teachers, uniforms and a structured routine. Help your little one settle in and thrive with these practical tips.
- Prepare them for their new routine
Get into the morning routine the week before the big day. Explain how the school day is structured and the role of the teacher.
If your school has organised a transition visit before the start of the new year, take advantage of this, as it will enable you and your child to become familiar with the school ahead of time, and help you feel more involved in the school community.
And, if you know other families who will be attending the same school, set up a holiday playdate or two, so there will be at least one familiar face from day one.
- Let them choose a few back to school items
Go on a fun shopping trip together to buy back to school essentials, and let them choose a few items, whether it be a new lunchbox, drink bottle or pencil case – or even their favourite lunch ingredients or snacks. Letting them make these decisions will mean they’ll be excited to bring them out and show their new friends.
If your child will be wearing a uniform, get them to wear it a couple of times before school starts, and do an enjoyable activity such as going out for ice cream.
- Include some relatable characters in story time
Reading books about characters starting school can help your child relate. Our top picks are:
- I don’t want to go to school! by Stephanie Blake
- Starting School by Jane Godwin and Anna Walker
- Charlie and Lola: I Am Too Absolutely Small For School by Lauren Child
- Topsy and Tim Start School by Jean Adamson
- Anticipate their needs on their first day
Explain the pick-up routine and location, and make sure they know where the toilets are and what to do when they’re in the classroom and they need to go.
Hang around as much as you feel you need to – if your child is happily interacting with the other children, it’s your cue to take a step back.
And remember to take photos! You’ll want to reminisce about the big day, so don’t forget to bring your camera and capture keys moments such as standing in front of their classroom, wearing their new uniform and schoolbag, and posing with family.
- Deal with worry in a positive way
Some children will naturally feel anxious about change, and the first day of school is one of the biggest changes they will have to deal with. Even though you may be feeling anxious yourself, it’s important to try and be as relaxed as possible (easier said than done!) as your child might pick up on any stress you may be feeling.
The Interactive Worry Plaque is great tool that can help resolve any anxious feelings your child might have. The plaque glows red when the child places their hand on it and thinks about what’s worrying them. The plaque glows green when fairy magic takes their worries away.
- Lean on teachers for support
Teachers have plenty of experience dealing with first day wobbles, and most children will settle quickly once the parents have left.
If you have any questions about how your child is coping at school, talk to their teacher before or after school. They’re there to give you feedback and help alleviate any concerns you might be having.
- Listen to their concerns, but remain positive
Nothing beats seeing your little one beaming from ear to ear after a successful first day of school. But if yours is more upset then upbeat, rest assured that this will pass. Listen to what they didn’t like about school but be sure to ask them to tell you what they did enjoy. Did they like their new teacher? Did they learn some new names? What made them laugh?
If you’ve discovered that they didn’t eat the lunch you packed for them, try not to stress about this too much. It’s very common for children to be so caught up in all the new activities that they aren’t hungry or they’re too busy to eat. But you might want to have a few healthy snacks on hand for when they get home in the afternoon and realise they’re starving.
Most importantly, no matter how anxious or worried you’re feeling, remember to take a deep breath and maintain some perspective. Tears will dry up and grazed knees will heal. After all, your child is embarking on an exciting new chapter in their development. Good luck!