Jo Nice, Head of Early Years Practice at Seymour House Day Nursery Schools talks to us about how to give your child a head start when they start school:
Starting school is an exciting time for young children and their parents. It can be a daunting time too but with a little preparation and encouragement, most children will settle easily at school.
Remember your child does not need to be able to read, write or do sums before they start school but here are some top tips to help prepare your child for school.
If your child has already spent time in a childcare setting their social and practical skills that will help them at school are probably already well developed. Equally, if your child has not attended a childcare setting don’t worry for they too have already started to develop these skills through playing with other children and spending time with friends and family – all these things are good practice for forming friendships with classmates. Often children make friends quite quickly but if your child struggles, teach them some useful phrases such as ‘can I join in?’ or ‘do you want to share?’
Games and role-play at home will boost your child’s confidence.
Activities could include:
- Playing games that involve taking turns, listening or speaking in front of a group
- Using your child’s favourite toy to role play going to school
- Painting or drawing, which involve sitting down for short periods of time
Help to develop your child’s independence by giving them a few everyday responsibilities such as laying the table, feeding a pet or putting their own laundry away.
Chat to your child about starting school. What do they think it will be like? What are they most looking forward to? Is there anything they’re unsure or worried about? Listen to what they have to say and reassure them by explaining where they will be going, what they will be doing and for how long. Emphasise the things they may enjoy and read books together about starting school such as ‘Harry and the Dinosaurs Go to School’ by Ian Whybrow or ‘Going to School Sticker Book’ by Usborne. A book or two about a character doing the same can help confidence and is an opportunity to talk about fears.
Other activities that may help include:
- Looking at the school’s prospectus or website and visit the school
- Practise the school morning routine including getting dressed, eating breakfast in time to leave and the journery
- Purchase school uniform together letting them choose an item maybe their own container for their snack or PE bag
- Encourage your child to put on their clothes and shoes, undress and tidy away after themselves
- Support your child to be confident about going to the toilet and washing their hands afterwards and using a tissue to wipe their nose
- Encourage your child to use a knife and fork and carry a plate or tray
- Talk about your own happy memories at school
Try to avoid:
- Showing your anxiety – try to be relaxed and positive and show them a ‘can do’ attitude
- Don’t ever tell them your disliked school or you weren’t very good at school
- Try not to bombard your child with endless talk about school or focus on it as the ‘big step ahead’ – treating it in a relaxed manner will reassure them
Checklist for you:
- Do you know where you need to take and collect your child and at what time?
- Do you know the equipment they will need eg PE kit, spare clothes, etc.?
- Will you be able to take your child into the classroom or are they expected to go in on their own?
- Label everything making sure your child know where to find them?
- If you have arranged childcare before or after school explain the routine, who will collect them and try a settling in visit before term starts?
- If your child has a particular worry about not liking food or wetting themselves, for example, try to speak to the teacher beforehand and reassure your child by discussing what to do and who to tell in these situations.
Coping with changes in behaviour
It’s quite common for children’s behaviour at home to change when they first start school. Don’t be surprised if your child becomes more clingy, lethargic, excitable or prone to tantrums for a while since they are sure to pass.
Make time in the evening to chat about your day when you share fun times and any worries. Nutritious meals and plenty of sleep will help them concentrate and learn at school. If they are tired when they come home from school let them have some quiet time and let them get used to school routine before you introduce after school activities.
Finally, remember to keep talking to your child about their feelings about school and if you do have any concerns, raise them with your child’s class teacher early to prevent them from developing into bigger problems.