We all want to prepare children as best we can for when they start school. The more prepared they are, the easier it will be for them to settle in and make the most of all the opportunities that going to school will offer.
Experiences children have in the early years of their life will have a huge impact on their future well-being and successes. Parents are crucial to this and, time and time again, research proves that children who feel safe, secure and loved are more receptive to and involved in learning.
Supportive parenting and stimulating home environments are the most important predictors of how well children will achieve at school.
Each school has its own way in which it helps introduce your child to school life. The idea being that they slowly become familiar and feel happy and secure with their new environment and the people they will be spending their day with.
It doesn’t matter if your child cannot recognise letters or write their name. What's important is that they go to school feeling relaxed and ready to learn.
When your child does start school, they will be very tired and may need an earlier bedtime. Establishing a good sleep routine now will help. Starting school is exciting but can be exhausting in the early days.
Help your child to become more independent
Practise these things with them, which will make little tasks so much easier for them when you're not there:
- taking their coat on and off, doing it up and undoing it
- dressing and undressing themselves ready for PE lessons
- doing up their shoes - velcro is great for this
- wiping their own noses and bottoms (teachers and teaching assistants cannot do this)
- washing their hands - talk to them about why this is important (especially before snacks and lunchtime)
familiarise your child with school
When you first visit the school ask if it is possible to have a photo of their class teacher and teaching assistant. This way they will recognise their faces and know their names before their first day at school.
- regularly walk past the school and peek through the fence. Talk about what you can see, which will make things seem familiar and ‘safe’
- talk about school and their teacher in everyday conversation so it becomes normal and familiar
- visit the library and share stories about ‘starting school’. This will give your child the opportunity to ask questions and to share any worries they may have
- talk positively about school. Even if you are nervous, don’t show this to your child. If you are excited and enthusiastic, they will be too
- label everything
- school is a busy and exciting place and children can easily forget where they left their jumper or coat at break time which can cause anxiety
- show them their name labels and teach them how to recognise their coat - popular styles are often worn by more than one child
- perhaps take them to buy a new lunch box, water bottle and book bag and label them together. Make sure that they can open it themselves too
- refresh labels often, as worn or faded labels are hard for everyone to read
Most importantly, let them have fun. When children feel happy and secure they are confident to explore and learn.
- over the next few months give your child lots of opportunities to play with children of their own age so they can learn to socialise, take turns and share
- read with and to your child every day, if you can
- sing nursery rhymes and songs together.
- make time to talk to them and show them how to speak nicely and to listen well.
- ensure that your child gets lots of physical exercise. This is important for later skills such as writing