My daughter started school last year and the year has flown by! These are just a few tips for the parents taking their children to primary school for the first time next week. The first day at school is one of the most memorable times in your life - for both child and parent - but it doesn't need to be the harrowing and heart-wrenching moment that you may expect it to be.
Listen to their concerns
We all remember the feeling of dread when going to school for the first time - no matter how many years ago it was! So think back to this time, acknowledge their fears and provide comfort and reassurance. We need to make it a priority to listen to our children, and ask about their day. It will then be easier to spot pre-school nerves that could result in headaches or stomach aches.
Encourage them to socialise with children beforehand
Organise play dates with your child's friends who you know are going to the same school shortly before term starts so that they won't feel so nervous about going. By socialising with other children who will be there on their first day they will feel much more confident, especially as all the children will be feeling the same. Then follow this up with a few more play dates in the first few weeks of term. Listen out for names that your child mentions and try and spot the parents in the playground.
A little bit of independence
A little bit of independence can go a long way in preparing a child to be ready for school. One of the biggest things a child can struggle with is managing their personal hygiene, being able to put on a coat, take off a jumper, manage socks and shoes etc. If a child lacks confidence in these areas it can lead to frustration and anxiety so try to encourage a new challenge each day for your child e.g. today your challenge is to put your shoes on all by yourself!
You should never feel guilty about getting your children to help out around the house. Not only do chores emphasise the importance of good hygiene and cleanliness, but children who regularly carry out household tasks will find it easier to work and complete assignments when at school. They will also learn to be independent and self-sufficient whilst following instructions, which will boost their confidence when they go back to school.
Practise their reading and writing in preparation
Spend 20 minutes a day reading with your child in a unique and fun way. You can act out the stories by creating mini plays, or if they have started to read take it in turns to read alternate pages. Writing is also important. Encourage your children to practise holding a pencil and draw pictures of things that happened over the summer.
Create a routine in advance
Plan ahead to avoid the morning madness and stress by getting into a routine before school starts. By implementing the schedule of going to bed and waking up early a week before school starts, it will be sure to prevent any worries. If it is possible, begin a routine where clothes and shoes are ready and laid out the night before. This will reduce the possibility of being in a crazy rush before you leave home.
Make back to school shopping fun
No doubt you have been swarmed with 'back to school' offers for clothes and stationery so another activity that could be fun is to make a school shopping list with the kids. This task will allow them to think creatively about what they need when they go back to school. This can also be an opportunity to teach them the value of money. Shopping doesn't need to be a stressful task with the children but allow them to pick out a few little things so that they can look forward to showing off to their new friends when the term begins.
First day at school party
The first day at school could be celebrated the night before with a mini party. The night will have to end early of course to ensure a good night's sleep and bright eyes in the morning! Plan a hearty meal, a fun DVD and their favourite dessert to show them how proud of them you are that they are starting school for the first time. It will be sure to cheer up your child and give them a good feeling about their first day.
There are so many activities on offer for you to do after school from swimming, gymnastics, music and additional learning. Many will offer free trials (like our own www.explorelearning.co.uk) and it's important to see how your child responds before committing. However, don't try to do anything in the first few weeks of term. Wait for your child to settle into his or her new routine. Check they are not too tired and are happy to have additional stimulation before looking into any extra clubs.
So take pleasure in the first day at school - shed a little tear for your growing baby then welcome this exciting new experience and make some of your own special friendships too.