Starting school or nursery can be a nerve-racking time for both you and your child. Being away from you, in unfamiliar surroundings with a new routine and lots of new faces is a daunting prospect for any child. And, of course, you’re worried about how she’ll cope in the big wide world, whether she’ll make friends, enjoy learning and be OK in someone else’s care.
Luckily, there are plenty of things you can do to help prepare your child for school or nursery and make the transition as smooth as possible.
Chatting to your child about her fears is a great way to help make the first day at school feel less scary. Talk about where she’ll be going, the sorts of things she’ll be doing and how long she’ll be there for.
Chat about all the fun things that she loves doing at home that she’ll be able to do more of at school or nursery, whether it’s painting, reading or singing. Involve her in choosing her new schoolbag and pencil case so she’s excited to use them when the time comes.
Most importantly, stress to her that she’ll come home at the end of the day and you, or her carer, will be there to meet her and hear all about the exciting things she’s been up to.
Before term starts, visit the school with your child. Have a look around and show her the classroom she’ll be in, the cloakroom, play areas and toilets so she’s familiar with the surroundings on her first day. Point out the things your child is particularly interested in so she gets used to the idea that school is a place to enjoy.
Many schools have plans in place to help children settle in so ask about these if you’re worried about anything.
Play dates will help your child make friends quickly
In the weeks before your child starts school or nursery, find out who’s going to be in her class or group. She may already know some of the children so you can talk about the fun she’ll have with them. Or, arrange play dates so she can get to know other children in her class and there’ll be a few familiar faces when she starts.
Giving your child an idea of what she’ll be doing at school and nursery before she starts will give her more confidence and help her settle in to school life better. Read books about starting school and nursery and encourage her in activities, such as art and reading, that involve sitting down patiently for a period of time.
Role-play is another fun way to help your child get used to the idea of starting school or nursery. Use toys and take turns at pretending to be the teacher and the pupil. Act out lessons and encourage your child to put her hand up to ask questions when she’s the pupil.
Make sure your child can recognise her full name, can get dressed and undressed by herself and use the toilet on her own.
Starting school and nursery is all about routine. From getting up, dressed and out the door, to lessons, play times and coming home, your child’s day will be very structured. If she doesn’t have a firm routine already, it’s worth introducing some structure to her day in the weeks before she starts school or nursery. This will also make things easier for you when it comes to getting her out the door on time!
A set bedtime is very important – trying to get a tired child to school in the morning can be very trying. She’ll also struggle to concentrate once she’s at school if she’s tired. You’ll probably find school wears her out, especially at first, so you may need to bring her bedtime forward by half an hour or so.
Children are very perceptive little creatures and they’ll feel more apprehensive if they pick up on your worries. So try to appear calm and relaxed as the big day approaches. Chat cheerfully about her new adventure, tell her how much fun you had at school and that you can’t wait to hear all about her experience.