This year’s crop of new reception kids and parents, like last years, really do have our sympathy. Preparing to start school is hard enough, never mind the backdrop of a global pandemic. Routines have been disrupted due to burst “bubbles”, kids have spent more time than ever with parents and in some cases, those all important ‘getting to know you” sessions with new teachers had to be cancelled.
Well, here at Mini First Aid we are all about being prepared. So this week’s blog has LOADS of advice from ex primary school teachers Kathryn Baldrey-Chourio of Nana’s Manners and Lucy Patrick of Guaranteed Outstanding Supply Teachers to get you and your child September ready!
Buy their uniform early (with growing room so they don’t grow out of it by September!). Let them practise putting it on and taking it off – many children love this - my daughter wore her summer dress most of the August before she started in September! If you can help them become confident at changing into their PE kit when they start, you’ll be a favourite among the teachers. Practising getting them to take their shoes and socks on and off all by themseves (in preparation for indoor P.E.) will earn you an extra gold star!
Practice your school routine
Begin a before bedtime routine of packing a bag (with, not for your child) for the next day. Doing this now forms a habit which will reap reward when school starts, making mornings less pressured. Encourage your child to make decisions about what should be added by talking about where you will be going, what kind of weather is expected etc. It won’t be long before they will be doing this with minimum intervention.
Familiarise your child with the school day
Have a look at the timetable of the school day so you are able to answer any questions your child may have. 9am till 3:30pm is a long time for a 4 year old. Whilst they’re not likely to be able to visualise that they have a snack at 10:30am, lunch at 12, they will understand that they have an activity, then a snack and a story, followed by a play outside, for example. Playtimes and snack/lunch times are the markers of most children’s days!
School may be the first setting where your child will be expected to eat fairly independently. If they are going to have a packed lunch, check they are able to open any plastic containers you use to store their food - and close them again to avoid leaks! If they are going to eat a hot lunch, practice using a knife and fork so they are confident in cutting up their own food and able to eat independently.
You could also get into the habit at home of asking them to set the table and help clear away at mealtimes, and let them pour their own drink to start gaining some independence in this area.
Toilets – a firm favourite topic amongst kids. When your child starts school, checking they know where the toilets are can relieve a lot of anxiety. Many kids have a window of approximately 30 seconds from realising they need the toilet to really needing to go to the toilet – knowing which direction to go can make a big difference!
Help the teachers out!
If you don’t already, use these last few weeks before school to ask your child to help tidy away after playing with their toys. There is much valuable learning to be had in terms of sorting, plus you are teaching them to look after and respect their environment. A significant amount of time is spent on establishing routines in a Reception Class at the beginning of the academic year and tidying up is a key part of this.
Give your child time to think
Give your child thinking time after you have asked them a question. This will help develop them as critical thinkers. Answering your own question before giving them chance to will not. It’s surprising how many people seem to talk on behalf of their children!
It’s an emotional time for everyone . .
It’s not just your child who’s starting school. For many parents, this will be the first time they have been in that environment since their own school days. This can bring back a range of emotions, and not all of them may be positive. Walking back into a classroom can bring back memories you’d forgotten you even had. Schools have changed enormously over the years and it can be important to remember that any negative memories you have will almost certainly be different to your own child’s experiences.
It’s perfectly normal to feel separation anxiety and worry about how your child will be when they’re away from you for the school day. Children can be upset and clingy at the first few drop offs, but I promise you, once they are inside with others and getting on with the activities, they will be absolutely fine. I remember spending most of the morning upset on my son’s first day, knowing full well he was having a great time!
Finally, remember to make sure you name everything if you want it to find its way home! It doesn’t have to be anything fancy – a permanent marker on a label will do!
Thank you Kathryn and Lucy!
We wish you all the very best of luck with the start of your school journey, and hope your little ones (and you!) have a wonderful first week!
Love, The Mini First Aid Team xxx
Kathryn Baldrey-Chourio is a former primary school teacher and founder of Nana’s Manners.
Lucy Patrick is a former primary school headteacher and owner of Guaranteed Outstanding Supply Teachers.