Got a first-time schooler at home? Here are some tips to help prepare you both for the big day.
2019 marked a HUGE milestone in our household, with our oldest daughter attending kindergarten for the first time. For so many parents and children, this is a big step, especially if the child hasn’t spent a lot of time away from mum or dad (such as at day care.) Whether your child is starting kindy (or reception, if you’re in the UK) for the first time, or pre-primary school, there are plenty of things you can do to help prepare your child for their first day and ease the nerves and anxiety for them…and you!
Consider a ‘pre-kindergarten’ program
A what? I had never heard of this before I heard some mum friends discussing pre-kindy. If you’re in the UK, it is similar to a nursery program, which comes before the reception year. Where I live, children can attend a one day a week ‘pre-kindy’ class that will give them an insight into what being in a classroom is all about. It’s generally less hours than a child-care centre day and will also help them adjust to being away from mum or dad for a few hours at a time. Just be aware this type of program may not be available in each state, territory or area.
Help your child to recognise their name
This little task will not only help your child know which coat hook, pigeon hole, bag hook or name badge is theirs, but it will also help them find their things at the end of the day, making your job just that bit easier too! Just make sure everything is labelled when you send it off to school!
Choose a special school item just for them
If your child has siblings already in school, they may be on the receiving end of lots of hand-me-downs. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that, but you might consider buying your first-time schooler a special lunch bag, school bag or pencil case - something they can take pride in, take care of and recognise as their own when they embark on their school adventure. Plus, having their own special item with them might also help your child look forward to the first day.
Practice ‘menial’ tasks
They may be menial to us, but putting on shoes and socks, opening and closing a backpack or lunch bag and opening a lunch box can be hard work for little people! Be sure to spend some time practicing these things - not just to help your child gain their independence, but also to help out the teacher. There is, after all, only one or two adults for every classroom full of children, and your child’s teacher will appreciate that little bit of help.
Spend a few weeks eating ‘recess’ and ‘lunch’
My daughter’s day care offers morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea, so my daughter had no idea what ‘recess’ was. Plus, the morning tea and lunch times were waayyyyy different to that of school recess and lunch times.
We spent a bit of time going though what she would do at recess and which of her lunch box foods she should be eating. We went through the routine of eating at recess time and lunch time in the weeks before school began to get her used to the idea of recess.
Don’t stress too much about what they should and shouldn’t know
In our state, children can start kindergarten in the year they turn 4, provided their birthday is before 30th June. That means at the start of our school year in February, my child was just 3 when she started kindy. She was still a baby to me! Given this, I’m not sure why I was freaking out so much that she couldn’t write her name (heck, she couldn’t even hold the pencil properly) or write anything in general. She could, however, recognise her name, count to 20, count backwards from 10 and has a healthy interest in play and making friends, so we were doing something right!
Never forget that all children develop differently, and in the school environment, there will be children who are almost a year older than others in the same class! Don’t stress too much if there is a particular area of development they seem to be behind in when they first start, and never compare them to the other kids. The last thing we want to be doing is putting pressure on our children in their very first year of school.
Never forget that all children develop differently, and in the school environment, there will be children who are almost a year older than others in the same class! Don’t stress too much if there is a particular area of development they seem to be behind in when they first start, and never compare them to the other kids!
That’s easier said than done, especially if you and your child haven’t spend much time apart, let alone a full school day. Some schools offer a phase-in program with reduced kindy hours for the first couple of weeks to get your child used to the feeling of staying somewhere new, and you should be provided with the opportunity to spend some time with them in the classroom before it’s time to leave them for a full day. If your school doesn’t offer this phase-in program, speak to their teacher about your concerns and see if there are any further resources available or help offered if you or your chid are particularly anxious.
So good luck! It’s a big step for any child, but there are certainly things you can do to make this next phase of life just that little bit easier for you and your ‘baby.’