Starting ‘Big School’ is a really exciting time for children and parents alike. A whole new world of opportunity opens up as children explore their new environment, learning through play and forming friendships which could last their lifetime. For parents too, it’s a time to meet new families and socialise, find support as you go through this phase of your child’s development and enjoy the progress you’ll see at this stage of their lives. Parentkind (formerly PTA UK), the national charity that champions parents in education has been speaking to its members and shares their top tips on how to make a smooth transition from a home setting or pre-school into Primary school.
You’ll have been to the ‘settling-in’ sessions and possibly even attended the last summer fair to help your little one get to know their new school, but once they actually start, you’ll find a surprising amount of admin to deal with. Letters and forms come home every week and it’s good practice to get into the habit of reading these from the start – after all, you don’t want your child to be the only one in uniform on an own clothes day! Make a note of any key dates and familiarise yourself with the school website.
The school will probably provide you with a list of everything your child will need. Ask other parents which items are essential right from the start and which can wait until later. Get your child involved by letting them choose anything that doesn’t need to be strictly uniform, like their coat or lunchbox. Reception children come home covered in everything from mud to lunch to paint and playdough, so it’s a good idea to have plenty of uniform. Ask whether the PTA runs a pre-loved uniform shop – it’s a great way of showing your support and saving money.
Though Early Years staff are happy to help with shoes, PE changes, cutlery etc, the effort you put in to preparing your child for school life by encouraging independence, won’t go unnoticed. Get your little one to practice dressing and undressing themselves, and make things easier for them – think Velcro shoe straps and elasticated waist bands!
Avoid the fear of the unknown
There are lots of ways you can get your child used to the idea of school – start by borrowing a few books about going to school from your local library and read them often. Treat your child to a sticker or activity book about starting school, play ‘school’ with their teddies, and let them wear their new uniform around the house – if there’s anything itchy or annoying you can deal with it before the big day.
Accept that they’re going to be tired
Prepare yourself for inconsolable meltdowns. After being as good as gold all day everything can often come out once they are at home. They’ll be hungry too, so bring a snack at pick up time. It’s good to get into a routine of early bed times and wake ups well in advance. Even children who are used to nursery will be tired after school.
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Parentkind (formerly PTA UK) is a national charity that supports Parent Teacher Associations nationwide, with advice, information and online forums for parents to share ideas and ask questions. For more information and advice visit www.parentkind.org.uk