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Preparing your child for their first day at school

Preparing your child for their first day at school
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Eek! The day is approaching! Your baby is all grown up and it’s time to start school! How do you go about preparing your child for their first day at school?

Practical Skills

Infant teachers know that all children develop at different rates, so they will be ready to cope with a range of abilities. But there are a few skills you can nudge your child towards acquiring in advance of starting school that will help them to fit in more easily, provided they are ready:

  • Patience – not your average youngster’s strong point I know, but knowing how to sit still, listen and wait, and also understanding that this will be expected of them, will help your child to be prepared for what lies ahead
  • Toilet Skills – knowing how to use the toilet independently is a skill that most reception classes insist upon. Most children of school age are capable of doing this, but some may need a little encouragement
  • Dressing and Undressing – PE classes will demand that your child can get undressed and dressed by themselves. Teachers and assistants will be on hand to help with fiddly fastenings, but the main job of getting changed should be done by your child himself
  • Eating Habits – if your child is to stay for school dinners, it goes without saying they must be able to feed themselves well. Teaching and encouraging good table manners at home will help to prepare them for eating with their friends, and keep them out of trouble

What’s it all About?

There are many excellent books available that explain what happens at school to young children. Reading some of these with your child will help to demystify the environment a little, and provides opportunities to talk about the kinds of activities they may be involved with. Role-playing can also be useful – show how the teacher may take a register, or ask all children to sit quietly for a story, for example.

Many schools have an open day towards the end of the summer term, where new-starters can visit their soon-to-be classroom in person. They may forget all about it over the summer, but upon re-entering the building in the Autumn the vague familiarity of the environment will help them to feel less lost. Simple things like knowing where the toilets are, and where they are expected to hang their coats and bags can make all the difference to their confidence.

The First Few Weeks

Preparing your child for their first day at schoolDay one is only part of the story. After the initial excitement and first-day hurdle have passed your child may declare that they have ‘done’ school now, and have no desire to return. Gentle encouragement at this point is key. It’s normal for your child to feel nervous, and to continue to feel uncertain about the school environment at this early stage. Praising them for how well they are doing will boost their confidence, and being firm but gentle about the fact that school is not an option will help to establish a healthy attitude to school-life from day one.

Talk it Out

Five year olds are not the most articulate of beings, so simply asking your child if they are happy may not be helpful. Talk instead about specifics – Who do you play with? Are there any naughty children in your class? What do you like doing most? – the answers to these types of questions are more likely to provide clues about how your child is really doing. If you are concerned at all, then talk to your child’s teacher – it may be that they are coping just fine in class, but managing their underlying fears and anxieties at home. This is normal, but the negative view it provides to Mum and Dad can be a little unnerving. It will generally pass with time, as your child realises that school is here to stay, and learns that their fears are usually unfounded.

Your child’s first days at school can be as daunting for you as a parent as they are for your child. Seeing them take their first steps towards independence is a scary thing. You will never again play such a close role in their lives. That’s a hard thing to let go of. But remaining positive and upbeat will show your child that you have confidence in them to meet the challenges of school head on. Before you know it they will be making your beam with pride at the way they skip through the gates, wiping away your goodbye kiss as they go.

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About Cally Worden

About Cally Worden

Seasoned freelance writer Cally Worden lives with her family and dog in a quiet corner of rural France. A love of the outdoors, and a fascination with her children's ability to view life with fresh eyes provide the inspiration for much of her work. Cally writes regularly for various websites and UK print publications on subjects as diverse as parenting, whatsapp plus,travel, lifestyle, and business, and anything that makes her smile.

Website: Cally Worden

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