Have a little one starting school this year?
Read our tips for helping you and your child prepare for this exciting new adventure ...
Start getting into a routine
The school day can seem very long for Preppies, with much more time spent listening and concentrating than in Pre-Prep. They will need a good night’s sleep (aim for 11 to 12 hours), a decent breakfast and healthy snacks and lunch to help them get through their school day. Now is the time to establish early bed times and practice getting your child up at the time they will need to rise on a school day. Get them used to eating a good breakfast, morning tea and lunch at regular times rather than snacking throughout the day. Make sure that you read to them every day, perhaps as part of the bed time routine. Ensure that any screen time ends at least an hour before bed time so that your child is able to unwind.
Prepare them mentally and emotionally
- Check off the days to school on a calendar with your child and count the number of sleeps till their big day.
- Talk to your child about their expectations – their excitement and their concerns. Be positive and encouraging.
- Read books about starting school, eg ‘Starting School’ by Janet and Allen Ahlberg or ‘I Am Too Absolutely Small For School’ by Lauren Child.
Arrange play dates with other children who are starting school with your child
If you don't yet know any other children attending Prep with your child, make sure they have some play dates with other children their own age in the run up to starting school.
Practice putting on school uniform
Buttons, laces, socks and other fiddly bits can be quite a challenge for little ones so spend some time letting them practice dressing (and undressing) themselves in their school uniform. Ensure they can go to the toilet independently in their unfamiliar new clothes.
Queensland kids, who are used to running around in sandals or thongs, may find a full day in socks and shoes a strange and uncomfortable experience so make sure they spend some time wearing them around the house to adjust.
Ensure your child’s clothes and belongings have their name on them. That includes bags, lunch boxes, drinks bottles, hats etc. If you have room inside your child’s hat, put your mobile telephone number next to your child’s name. From experience, I find this gets lost hats identified and returned more quickly.
Visit the school
Drive/walk to the school with your child to familiarise them with what will be their daily journey. Show them where they will enter and where you will pick them up. Check how long it takes you to travel to the school (appreciating that you will have to allow extra time for traffic on a school day).
Play with the school bag
Help develop your child's independence. Have fun packing the school bag, play with lunch boxes and containers – practice taking off lids and putting them on again, go for a walk with the bag on – so that your child gets used to carrying it.
Prepare your child for school activities
- Run, jump, skip, hop, catch and throw balls together
- Do activities requiring fine motor skills – drawing, cutting, modelling
- Count, sort and match objects – buttons, socks, lollies
- Do some baking together
- Read to your child
Familiarise yourself with your child school's website, parent apps and social media platforms - they will be a vital source of information to you over the coming weeks, months and years.
Many schools have private Facebook groups for parents of each school year level so that parents can arrange play dates, flag lost uniform items, discuss school issues and more. Contact your child's school to see what online forums are available for parents of the new intake.
Confirm school start and end times
It might sound obvious, but be sure to check your child's school start day and time. The Prep start and end times may differ slightly from the rest of the school. Ensure you know where you are taking your child and picking them up from and what to do should you be late - put all necessary contact numbers into your mobile phone
Have a practice run
A few days before your child starts school, have a ‘get ready for school’ practice run. Practice getting up, dressed, fed and packed in time for school and then do the journey there and back. Not only will this prepare your child but it will reveal any issues that may slow you down on a school day - eg breakfast spilt on uniform (maybe eat breakfast in pyjamas next time?), lunch taking longer than expected to prepare and pack.
On the big day
- Ensure your child has gone to bed early the night before. Have uniform, hat and bag ready.
- Include emergency spare underwear/clothes and a plastic bag in your child's school bag in case of accidents.
- Give yourself plenty of time to get ready and extra time for travel - school traffic is always busiest on the first day of school.
- Give your child a good breakfast and pack them a healthy packed lunch and snack for morning tea. Most schools do not have fridges to store lunch boxes so put an ice block in with your child's lunch to keep things cool. Don't forget a water bottle.
- Make sure you apply sunscreen to your child.
- Accompany your child to their classroom, introduce yourself to the teacher, see where your child is sitting, be positive and enthusiastic. Hug your child, tell them they are going to have a fantastic day and you can't wait to hear all about it when you collect them in the afternoon, kiss them goodbye and LEAVE. Some children will get upset and experience separation anxiety but it is important not to linger and make the situation more difficult.
- Don't forget your camera!
Do you have any tips for parents of children starting school? Tell us in your comments below.