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How to Prepare Your Child for Their First Day at School

July 31st, 2017
Hayley M.
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How to Prepare Your Child for Their First Day at School
I write this post as both a parent and a teacher. But to be honest mostly as a teacher. An Early Years Teacher. An Early Years Teacher who has spent over ten years dealing with first term mayhem as she tries to settle 30 four-year-olds into government imposed school curriculum.

Let me be straight with you. I really don't mind if your child can't read or write yet. That's my job. That's what I'm here to do (amongst other things). I don't expect your child to have perfect handwriting and be able to count to one hundred: those skills will come.

There are however a few things that will make school life easier for you, the teacher and most importantly your child. So here are my top five ways to prepare your child for school.

1) Don't go overboard.
If your child already goes to nursery then chances are the first few weeks of school is going to be reasonably similar. Us teachers are a sympathetic lot and we do our best to make the transition pretty gradual. So don't pile on the pressure about 'big school' and how they 'won't be able to do that at big school' or how 'their new teacher will expect them to do this'. Be positive, be excited but most of all, be relaxed.

2) Read all about it.
There are some great books about school that can really help put children's minds at ease. A particular favourite in my house was LLama LLama Misses Mama (https://www.amazon.co.uk/Llama-Misses-Mama-Anna-Dewdney/dp/0670061980), which I started reading to my son in the summer holidays, giving him plenty of time to get familiar with it before his own big day.

3) Know thy self.
It's always helpful if a child can write their own name (how else will teachers correctly identify whose loo roll rocket ship is whose at home time?) but if they're not yet writing it's not the end of the world. What is more important however is that the child can recognise their own name. That means they can find their own coat peg, tray, book bag etc. Yes. We have ways round it (I'm sure your teacher had spent all summer making cute pictures to match to each pupil's labels) but it really is one skill that is worth developing if you can.
A great way to practice is to make a simple jigsaw. Write two copies of your child's first name (large writing, but only use a capital for the first letter). Cut one copy up into individual letters, shuffle them up and get you child to match them to the second copy by placing them on top. Once they get used to them, get rid of the second copy and just keep practising with different combinations until they get it right.

3) Label everything.
I cannot stress this enough. Things will get lost. Trust me. Label every stitch of clothing, every lunchbox, water bottle, book bag and rain coat. Despite what you may think, your child is not the only one with a pair of Spider-Man wellies. Label it or lose it, and yes, this can include pants (you may well laugh but I've often been left at the end of a PE lesson wondering which child is going home commando whilst I retrieve lost underwear from behind a bookcase!) Which brings me to my next point...

4) Let them dress themselves.
The summer holidays is ideal for this as time pressure isn't usually quite as manic in the mornings. I know how tempting it is to do everything for them (trust me I have a five year old) but try to let them have a go themselves even if it takes them twenty minutes to put on a back to front t-shirt, inside out socks and backwards trousers.

5) Take it in turns.
Do anything you can to get your child used to taking turns and sharing. They may well already be getting used to this from previous settings. However, board games, play dates and even queuing for five minutes at the supermarket, all help get them to develop the social skills they'll need to work alongside 29 other kids that, just like them, want to be first at everything.

So there you have it. The top five tips that can make thier 'first day at big school' something to look forward to rather than fear!

Hayley x

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