How To Prepare Your Child For School

Even if it seems like a way off yet, there will come a time when your little one has to start school. This can be a difficult time for some who might be entirely unaware of what is expected of them, or even of what school is. Even those who do understand what they need to do might be concerned or anxious about that first day. This is why it’s so important to start early and prepare your child for school well ahead of the first day of term in reception. Doing this also has the additional benefit of giving you a chance to get ready as well; it can be just as hard on the parent as the child (and, if that child is completely prepared and ready to go, it will be you who is more concerned than they are).  

Read on to find several ideas of how to ensure your child is prepared for school so that by the time their first day arrives, they’re bubbling with excitement and can’t wait to get started. Although hard, this is far better than a child who clings on and cries at the school gate, which is upsetting for all.

Go To The School

Most primary schools will operate an orientation day that allows parents to take a good look around and meet the teachers who will be taking care of their children all day, every day. It’s a good idea to make time to attend this day if possible, as it will give you a much better idea of who the teachers are, how the school is laid out, what kind of day the children will have, and how their classroom looks. 

Understanding all of this means that you can help your child be more prepared for the routines that will be part of their day at school, and you can help to explain it to them before they start. It might be that you can take your child to this orientation day, which is even better. Going together will give your child the confidence to listen and take in information because you are there to guide them and – literally – hold their hand. 

It’s really important that you are able to compare all of the options in the local area. So while you should think about going to the school itself and checking it out in all its details, you should also look at what other options there are that you might want to consider. That could include some subsidised childcare options, for instance, and this might be more common than you think. That is especially important to look into if you want to make sure that you are going to give your child the best possible start with school.

Either way, the main point is that you are going there and checking it out for yourself.

Organise Play Dates 

One of the scariest things for a child who is just starting school is not knowing anyone. They are leaving their parents and entering a space without them, but with a lot of other people whom they’ve never seen before. This can be utterly overwhelming; it’s hard enough when you’re an adult and you have to do this, let alone when you’re just four or five years old. 

 To make things easier, try to organise some play dates before term starts. Of course, you won’t know who your child is going to want to be friends with, and that’s something that will happen organically as time goes on, but by inviting children who will be in the same class as your child over to your home, or by meeting up in a park or other public space if you prefer, you can rest assured that your little one is going to know at least one other person when they get to school, and this can be all that’s needed to make them happy to attend their first day. On top of this, you will be able to meet other parents, and that’s as helpful for you as it is for the children. 

Could Early Education Help?

For some, early education such as nursery or preschool is absolutely necessary, and it means parents can work knowing their children aren’t just being taken care of, but are learning important skills as well. Others, those who work from home or who are stay at home parents, may not feel that nursery or preschool is right for their child. 

However, even two or three days a week at a nursery can be the ideal way to introduce your child to the idea of school, and the earlier they start, the more relaxed they will be about going to school full-time. Plus, your child will be learning plenty of skills and gaining confidence in their abilities. They will, for example, already know how to sit and listen, how to tidy up after themselves, how to share, and how to contribute in class. 

If you can work with them at home as well, teaching your child to read, to count, to understand colours and shapes, and more, they will have a solid grounding that will help them not only be ready for school but to thrive when they get there.  

Be Positive About School 

No matter what your own personal experience of school might have been, or how much you’re dreading sending your child to school because you’ll miss them or you’re worried about them being by themselves, you must never let your child know. If you’re negative about school, if you voice your worries about them going, they will pick up on this, and their own fears and anxieties will grow, and by the time school comes around, they will be reluctant to go, and when they get there, they will have problems going inside and being comfortable in their new surroundings. 

No matter what you think or feel, it’s best to be as positive as possible about school and what the child will need to do when they get there. Never lie or exaggerate, of course, but it’s certainly a good idea to extol the virtues of school and give them an expectation that they will have fun but also have to work hard. This understanding from the start will help immeasurably. 

Monitor Your Child’s Response 

If you want to know how your child feels about school, the best thing to do is to monitor their responses to conversations about it. They might say one thing but mean another, or they might not say anything at all, but react with enthusiasm in some cases, and anxiety in others. Knowing how your child really feels about school means that you can tailor your discussions around it appropriately. 

 Ideally, you should follow the child’s lead in this regard. Always answer their questions about school, even if you’ve answered if before or think they should know; if they have been given a lot of information, some of it won’t have gone in right away. Remember also that time is a difficult concept for children to understand, and telling them that they have school next month or next week might not mean anything, so try to ensure you have a method of explaining when school is going to start; perhaps a countdown calendar on the wall that will give them a better idea of when their first day is. 

Start The Routine Early At Home 

The school day is one that runs on routine, and there will be a time that the children need to arrive, a time for registration, then a timetable to follow, and so on. This can be a hard concept for little children to understand if they haven’t had a routine before, or if the one they follow is a lot more fluid. 

To help them become more ready for school, and to allow them to adapt to this more rigid structure, you can start the school routine early at home. This will mean ensuring your child is awake at the time they would need to be awake to get to school on time, for example, and following the school timetable (which you can ask for) as closely as you can. This includes having a break at the same time as at school (your child will get used to having a snack at this time), and lunch, and free time too. When school starts, nothing will seem unusual or difficult to deal with because it will be just the same as at home. 

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