Preparing Children for School
As an anxious time in any parent’s life, preparing your child for school may seem like a daunting prospect. Whether they’re familiar with nurseries and childminders, or they’ve spent their first few years mainly at home with you, there’s no denying that there’s a stark difference between the daily life they know now and the one they’ll know next.
As an Early Years Foundation school, we’re used to helping children (and their parents!) deal with this transition. Fortunately, as primary caregiver, there’s a lot you can do to help your little ones integrate into this new world. From helping them socialise more often, to making sure you demonstrate your own calmness about the situation, taking steps to familiarise your child with the school environment will help to make this new stage in your lives fun and exciting.
Help your child socialise more often
Helping your child to socialise with other children is essential. Whether they’re already in a childcare setting or not, they need to become used to being around others. As such, walking into a sea of new faces and a new regimen on the day will feel less disconcerting when the time comes.
It’s especially important to help your child socialise with those who are likely to attend their school. There are a few ways you can achieve this:
- Take advantage of any trial days or pre-school groups so your child can become accustomed to the school environment and meet some new friends.
- Make new parent connections in the area, preferably parents with children who will be in your child’s class.
- Take them to settings where they’ll interact with new children, such as play areas, and let them take the reigns.
All of the above helps your child develop socialisation skills, making a new school a less scary place.
Consider enrolling them in a pre-school or kindergarten
While increasing the amount of time your child spends socialising will help them adjust to new faces, it doesn’t expose them to the classroom environment. Schools usually offer a more structured setting than playgroups and at-home childminders and daycare options, so it can be difficult adjusting to the school environment and bigger class groups.
Enrolling your child in a pre-school before the age of compulsory formal schooling comes with the following benefits:
- They accelerate their developmental skills before entering the classroom, taking advantage of the rapid learning period in the first five years of a child’s life.
- They acclimatise to sitting and listening patiently.
- They become familiar with classroom environments and activities such as circle time, story time, and tidy-up time.
- They’ll start following a curriculum that forms the basis of skills they’ll learn later in school.
Attend tours of their new school, if possible
We know how important it is for both children and parents to see and experience the school they’ll be going to before the official start date. This is why we offer a free trial day to all prospective parents and run open house events so that parents and children can tour the school and meet our teachers.
Touring your child’s future school provides several benefits for you both:
- You get to see the environment your child will thrive in, putting your mind at ease about their comfort.
- Your child may meet classmates and generate a sense of excitement in joining them at the start of the school year.
- If you have any questions, tours are the perfect opportunity to ask them.
During the visit, take note of your child’s reactions, be positive, and encourage them to ask their own questions. Dealing with their concerns like “where will I put my bag?” and “what will I eat at lunchtime?” can help reduce your child’s anxiety about starting school and increase their confidence in the new environment.
Say a quick goodbye on the first day
The big day will come around eventually, and the way you behave is a preparation opportunity in itself. Even if you are worrying, try not to pass those worries onto your little one. Don’t bombard them with questions about their feelings or provide reassurance when they’re not seeking it. Children are intuitive creatures, which means they’ll soon sniff out your anxiety and adopt it themselves.
Instead, spend the hour or so before walking around as though you are both heading on a big adventure. Continue the excitement in the car and remind them that you will pick them up at the end of the day. Tell them you’re looking forward to hearing their opinions on their new school, teacher, and friends.
Nerves on the first day are very normal and we’re used to dealing with anxious children. While some rush in to play without a second thought, others are more cautious and hang back. The best way to deal with this is to be confident yourself and even though your child’s first day of school is an emotional moment, you should keep your tears for when you’re out of sight!
Make sure your goodbye is brief and reassuring. Even very distressed children will normally settle quickly once their parents have left the building. Your child is entering a safe environment where we will care for them on a professional level. The day is the start of their journey to success.