10 simple things you can do to prepare your child for starting school

Is your child starting school for the first time soon? Here are 10 simple things you can do to prepare them (and you!).

Starting school is a magical milestone in your child’s educational journey. It’s the beginning of an adventure, where your child gets to assume the lead role.

They only get one first day at school, and that special first day will be soon. But first you still have some time left in what I call the ‘summer of opportunity’ – the few weeks before they start school is the perfect time to prepare your child for their big day.

10 simple things you can do to prepare your child for starting school

So what can you do to help them (and you) prepare for their first exciting day at school? And give them a happy and stress-free start to school life from the first chime of the alarm clock to tucking them in at bedtime? Here are 10 simple things I recommend as a former Deputy Headteacher of a primary school.

1) Catwalk

There’s nothing worse than putting on clothes that feel strange or awkward, especially when you already feel nervous about a new experience. So let your child strut their stuff by having ‘fashion shows’ to practice wearing their new uniform.

2) Label everything

‘Stick in’ name labels are busy parents’ and teachers’ best friend and will save you hours of sewing and searching! Amazingly, many young children recognise their clothes by how they smell, but ensuring your child can also recognise their name in print is essential to finding their items amongst a sea of thirty other identical ones.

3) Develop independence

Encourage your child to try to tie laces, dress and undress, fasten buttons, zips and velcro, take kit in and out of their PE bags, eat with others using cutlery and ultimately go to the toilet as independently as possible. Simple tasks, but ones they will need to master doing on their own.

Of course, they will receive help if they need it at school, but think of how grown up they’ll feel if they can do these things on their own before even walking through the school gates.

4) Develop key skills

There’s still time to help your child develop some key skills that will make starting school feel a little easier for them.

Reading together will foster a love for books, improve listening skills, develop imagination, broaden vocabulary and improve memory. And making marks with pencils, crayons, pens and paintbrushes is the precursor for writing and perfect for developing the fine motor skills needed to write.

Sing songs, make up rhymes and identify pictures and letters to develop language. Ask questions and give them time to think and reply. Sing number songs, count and use mathematical words such as ‘more’ and ‘less’ to develop mathematical skills. Playing games that involve taking turns, waiting or working together are also great for improving social skills.

5) Shop until you drop

Make an occasion of buying school provisions such as lunchboxes, bags, clothes and pencil cases, and make sure your child can use everything you buy as independently as possible. It’s no use having a really cool lunch box if they can’t open it and get to the yummy stuff inside!

6) Create a ‘first day story’

Talk about what they imagine their first day to be like, draw pictures or add photos of key things and people that they will encounter so that they are as familiar as they can be with their new surroundings and routines. It’s great to look back at it after the first day too and see if their story was like the real thing.

7) Practise key routines

Have a dress rehearsal. One day set the alarm and do all of the things that you’ll need to do on that first morning from the alarm bell to walking to the school gates.

8) Don’t forget home time

In all the excitement as they head into the building it’s easy to forget about the end of the day. So before the doors open, decide together where you’ll be standing so that your child knows where to look and can find you quickly at the end of the day.

9) Celebrate

At the end of their first day, your child will be super excited to see you and probably a bit on the tired side too so be prepared with a tummy filling snack to ease the journey home and make way for some downtime and lots of cuddles.

10) Reflect

This day will never happen again so make the most of it and use their ‘first day at school’ story as a way of finding out about what they did and compare it to how they imagined. However, if asking ‘how was your day?’ doesn’t get the response you want, try out these great questions to gain an insightful look into your child’s day.

And finally, if nothing else, remember to pack some tissues. I’m sure your little one won’t need them but there’s no harm having one on hand for yourself… just in case!

Jennie Adams Teaching and Learning is a unique educational service providing outstanding teaching, guidance and support for children, parents and educators of the primary age phase.