It’s already half way through January, which means most parents of school-aged children are starting to prepare for the beginning of the new school year ahead.
Miss 6 started school last year and it’s really hard to believe her Prep year is already over and she’s about to start Grade 1. Meanwhile, her older sister heads into Grade 5 this year which means the hunt for a high school will commence soon.
Regardless of whether you’re a seasoned veteran or it’s your very first time, having your son or daughter start school is an extremely exciting but also very emotional time.
I thought I would share some ideas I followed to make the transition into school slightly easier for me and my daughter last year.
If you have a littlie starting school for the very first time this year, I hope these tips help you in some way and I wish you all the very best for the weeks ahead!
Orientation sessions at school
I truly believe attending school transition or orientation sessions can make a big difference in how well your child starts school. Miss 6 didn’t know many other children before starting school but made one of her best friends through attending these transition sessions. For her, it was well worth it.
But if you missed out on attending these sessions, then perhaps consider taking your son or daughter for a visit to their school during the school holidays (if the school allows and their grounds are open to visitors outside of school hours). This will help them to familiarise themselves with the layout of the school and feel comfortable in their new surroundings before their first big day. Have some fun by perhaps shooting some hoops on the school’s basketball courts, playing a few games on the school oval or enjoying some lunch on the grounds to make it a positive experience.
Get your children involved in the preparations and make things easy for them
Bring your child along to try on their school uniform, let them help select a library bag, art smock and other materials.
When choosing a lunch box and drink bottle, it’s important to make sure they can open and close it by themselves.
If your children can’t tie their shoelaces yet, there’s not need to put extra pressure on them to learn before school – simply buy them velcro shoes so they feel comfortable and confident in taking their shoes on and off as needed at school. There’s plenty of time to teach them how to tie up their shoes during the year.
Read them books about starting to school
There are some great books to help ease the anxiety of starting school. A couple of my daughter’s favourites was The Things I Love About School and Charlie and Lola’s I am too absolutely small for school.
Check your local library for a copy otherwise you can usually pick these up quite cheaply from stores like Big W, Target or Kmart.
Have a play date with a fellow class mate over the school holidays
When Miss 6 started school, she met one of the best friends at the school’s transition sessions. To cement this friendship, I spoke with the girl’s mum and organised a play date during the school holiday so they could get to know each other a little more. It was one of the best things we did as they because even better friends before the start of the school year.
Get into a routine before school starts
A few days prior to school starting, start getting them prepared for the school routine by preparing their lunch box and setting an alarm to go off for morning tea and lunch – based on the school’s set times. Even pop the lunch box in their bag if you wish. Then when the alarm goes off, tell your son or daughter to pull out their lunch box and eat what you have packed for them so they begin to understand the process.
Similarly, get your children used to morning and evening routines, by making sure they start to go to bed at the same time they would on a school night. This can be tricky during the school holidays, when it’s easy to become a bit relaxed about routines, but there are plenty of benefits come that first day of school!
You can even create a morning ‘to do’ chart for your child to follow in the morning – from eating breakfast, getting dressed, brushing teeth, packing bags and so on. If your child can’t read yet, you can make it a visual chart by using drawings or even photos of them completing these activities. While your child will still need some guidance, it’s a great way for them to become a little more independent … and help mummy out at the same time!
On the big day, mark the occasion
Each year, I take a photo of my girls in the exact same spot – on the wooden bench on our front porch. It’s such a lovely tradition. I include all of my children, including younger siblings who have not yet started school, as it’s lovely to see how they have grown over the years when looking back at these photos.
I also bought my girls a special bangle or bracelet when they started school and presented it to them at the end of their first day of school. While this isn’t really necessary, I found it was something they could then wear to school and if they are feeling a little anxious or upset they simply need to touch or look at the bracelet to know that I’m nearby and always thinking of them.
Another cute thing you can do is add a little note to their lunch box – a simple ‘I love you’ or ‘Hope you’re having a fun day’ is all it takes. It’s a simple gesture, but most of my children seem to really enjoy getting them.
Be flexible in the early days of school
Starting school can be an extremely emotional and tiring time for your child and it’s important to give them some space to adjust to this new routine.
If you need to, perhaps drop any after school activities for a short while until they adjust to their new routine, or perhaps move these activities to the weekend instead.
While parents are keen to find out about their children’s first days at school, it’s important not to overload them with too many questions at once. Pick up on your children’s cues and wait for the right moment – straight after school is often not the best time as they are often tired and perhaps a little overwhelmed by their day. Bedtime is often a great time to have a good chat about what happened throughout their day. Then really take the opportunity to listen to your child as they begin to open up and shares stories about their day.
Do you have a little one starting school this year? How are you both feeling in the lead up? Do you have any tips to share to make the transition to school a little easier?