Starting school – helpful tips from teachers

Your child is starting school! It’s a big thing. A huge thing. You’re probably both experiencing a range of emotions as it approaches. It’s natural to worry, and to want to be prepared for whats to come. So I’ve put my head together with primary teachers, school support staff and transition to school leaders to compile a list of practical and pertinent things you can do to help prepare your child for starting school.

An important thing to remember is that your child is going to school to meet their qualified teacher who will guide them through the ins and outs of learning things such as writing their name, maths skills and a whole world of information. You don’t need to send your little one off with these skills already set, thats what they’re at school for! Don’t buy into the lists that tell you they need to count to 1000 and write cursive letters in the Queens English. As a parent, the most helpful things you can do for your childs’ smooth transition are PRACTICAL. Here’s some of the top tips from the experts:

PLEASE NOTE: every child is different and unique. This is a list of things that will be helpful in general when starting school, not a checklist for readiness. Please talk to your childs teacher about anything they may need assistance with. 

1. Make sure they know their whole name.

This seems straightforward. But if you asked your child what their first/middle/surname is… would they know? Do some practice asking these questions so that they will confidently be able to identify themselves. Knowing their birthday is also a good plan.

2. Check that they can dress themselves

Every school uniform is a bit different. Whether it be zips on jackets or buttons on shirts, have your child put the whole uniform on at home so that you can identify any areas that need practice. This includes turning their sleeves back the right way after taking off jumpers/jackets. If your little one isn’t quite ready to tie shoelaces, velcro shoes are a big thumbs up in ensuring they can be independent at school.

3. Talk about being responsible for belongings

During the day, school children will need to be aware of where their things should be. Whether it be on a bag rack, in a lunch area or hanging from a hat stand…they will need to remember what they have taken to school and what do do with it. It may be helpful to hang a tag on your childs bag with pictures of their items to remind them what to bring home. That includes hats, drink bottles, jumpers and stationary. Nobody wants to be constantly replacing lost items, get ahead of that before it happens.

4. Check that they can open their lunch

So you’ve packed something special for snack time. A muesli bar or special bento. Can they undo the clasps? Can they remove the wrapper? Make sure that everything you pack is easily opened by little fingers. If not, snip edges of packets and cut notches in the tops of bananas to give them a hand. Also worth noting that most (all?) schools won’t heat up kids lunches. Yes, that has been asked of teachers. Planning weather friendly foods may require some ice bricks or a thermos, but it shouldn’t need a microwave.

5. Consider how you serve food

Speaking of lunches, have you thought about the eating schedule at school? If you pack everything is in the same container their sandwiches may end up sitting in the sun throughout recess. It’s worth considering how you pack for the two eating breaks and letting your child know which food is for which break. Importantly though, don’t tell your child they need to finish all their lunch. As much as food is important, so is being active and making friends. You can fill them up once they are home and settled.

6. Independent use of the toilets

Walking into the school toilets alone is not the first time you want your son to be experimenting with a urinal. They may previously have used only family rooms or ladies toilets and not encountered one. (another reason why teachers know to be very wary of wee soaked shoelaces!) If your little one hasn’t used a urinal before, have some practice runs. Or at least have a talk about what to expect. In terms of toileting in general, check that your child can navigate through pulling down the uniform, wiping themselves, redressing and washing hands.

7. Talk to your kids about the structure of the day

Sure, you know when school ends and that they’ll have recess and lunch. Do your kids? Have a chat about the structure of the day. Talk about how drop off will go and what they can expect to see at school (other children, books, desks) Let them know about the lunch breaks, their teacher and of course what will happen when the end of day bell rings. Will you pick them up? Where? Will they go to after school care? Who will take them? Answer any questions your child may have now and it will help avoid uncertainty on the day.

8. Drop your child off and actually go.

Speaking of which…I know. This is hard! The first day of anything new is difficult for both of you. However, children are experts at reading emotions. If you are stressed, sad or anxious you had better believe they are going to absorb some of those feelings. Studies have shown that even BABIES read the emotions of their caregiver when a stranger enters the room looking for cues on how to react to that person. If you want your child to feel safe with their teacher, try to model it yourself. Take them to school, tell them you love them so much and will see them at X time. Say your goodbyes. Greet the teacher confidently. Leave.

9. Label everything

Yes. Everything. Label EVERYTHING. From the containers they use at lunch to their hats, jumpers, stationary, undies, drink bottles…EVERYTHING. A common story from the experts who helped me put this together was of the piles and piles of lost property that are amassed each week, which are routinely thrown in the bin or donated. Your child is probably wearing the same jumper as 200 other kids at the school. Do yourself a favour and make sure your family name (at least) is written on E V E R Y T H I N G. You could go to town with a permanent marker or you could buy a label pack with mixed options so that you have iron on/stick on/tags/small/large labels names for every single item (We love Stuck On You for this, great quality and adorable designs)

10. Read to your children

This is our last tip. Read! Read to your kids as much as possible. Sharing a book builds foundational literacy skills that you may barely be able to notice before they are asked to assemble the blocks of independent reading and writing. But thats when they will shine through! For a double impact whammy, read some books about starting school, about making friends, about dealing with emotions. Guys… just read ok. I promise you it’s going to make a difference.

I hope you found these tips useful. A huge thanks to all the amazing people who collaborated with me on this post! Sending big love to all the families who have a little one starting school this year. You’ve got this!

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