In what seems like the blink of an eye, your little baby is all grown up and about to reach the next big milestone in their lives: attending big school. No doubt this will be an exciting and emotional process for both your child and yourself. To minimize the first day of school jitters, here are some tips to help you help your little ones mentally and emotionally prepare for a less daunting first day at big school.
Start The Dialogue Early
It is beneficial to start talking about going to school months before school starts. Helping your child understand the concept of going to school, and developing positive associations about going to school will help them feel a sense of excitement and comfort once the day draws closer. I find that bringing up the topic again when they’ve just had their birthday is an excellent opportunity to talk about school again as it reminds them that they are now a “big kid” ready to take on this new adventure.
If your preschooler has older siblings, relatives or friends who are already at school, mention positive and encouraging things to them about their school life. Ask them how they feel, their thoughts and expectations as well.
Help Them Mentally and Visually Prepare by Reading Books and Watching Video Clips
Reading books is an excellent way to help them prepare for starting school. There are so many great books out there that help kids understand the concept of going to school, making friends, dealing with their emotions, etc. I also showed Miss 6 short videos clips I had found on Youtube or children’s shows (such as Play School) to show her snippets of kids learning and playing at school, classroom settings, etc. I also loved pointing out to her school kids we saw on the streets after school, or when we drove by a school to help her see real life children being at school, which helped to normalize the concept for her.
One of my favourite books about starting school is “First Day Jitters” by Julie Danneberg. It takes on a hilarious spin on the first day at school with a surprise ending to the story.
Attend School Open Days and Orientation Sessions
School open days and orientation sessions are great opportunities for parents and their children to familiarize themselves with the school and the teachers. It is a chance to ask questions and for your child to also notice that there are hundreds of children just like themselves who will be starting school at the same time as them next year.
Usually there will be a short in-classroom session for the children to do some simple arts and crafts while the parents attend an information session. These are wonderful opportunities for them to have a taste of being in the classroom without their parents with them. Praise them and show them positive reactions for being brave in the classroom when you re-unite with them afterwards.
Go Shopping for School Supplies Together
As it gets closer to the end of the year, it is a good idea to not leave the shopping til the last minute. Hit the shops together and let your child choose their own lunchbox, drink bottle, school bag, etc. Not only will it be fun for them to choose their own items, the reality of these items being in their home serves as a friendly reminder about starting school in the lead up to their first day.
Once you get hold of the stationery shopping list, either during School Orientation Day or after school starts, go together to pick out the items, and don’t forget to label all their belongings too. Doing it together with them gives them a sense of ownership and pride as well.
If you’d like more information on lunchboxes, Big School Kids has written an article on the top rated bento boxes of 2022. You can find it here.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Practice makes better, and familiarity, too! Practice changing into their school uniform and putting on their shoes a week or two before school starts. Practice opening, closing and eating out of their lunchboxes. Practice writing their names. Practice going to toilet and washing their hands properly.
Rehearse the morning routine for going to school and even do a few practice school runs so they are familiar with the route that they will be taking every morning and afternoon. Walk around the school and familiarize your child with where the toilets are.
Before/After School Arrangements
If your child has arrangements for before and/or after school care, ensure that they know where to wait for pick up, and who will be picking them up. Show them where the after school facilities are.
On the First Day of School
Wake up slightly earlier. Have a fulfilling healthy breakfast. Show them their packed lunch and what foods to eat when. To make their first day at school even more exciting, pop a little lunchbox note into their lunchbox to bring a smile to their faces at lunchtime.
Ensure their school bag is packed, school hat is on and sunscreen applied before heading out the door.
Arrive at school with plenty of time to spare, and have them lined up in the correct classroom queues. Reassure them that they will have a enjoyable day meeting their new teacher, new friends and doing some fun work, and that yourself or a carer would be ready waiting for them when school finishes. Give a short and comforting goodbye.
Preparation is the key in having a fun and happy first day at school for your child. Seeing your child settle smoothly into school is worth all the effort you put in, and no doubt, you will be waving goodbye with happy tears as they walk off into the classroom.
If you have any other tips you would like to add, please feel free to add them to the comments below.
* See our post on helping your child succeed at school here.