Starting School: Five Tips To Prepare Your Child
If you've got a little one starting school soon, there's bound to be some anxiety in your house right about now. And yes, I'm talking about
you rather than your little one because everyone knows kids take stuff like starting school in their stride.
But why waste your precious few remaining days of freedom with your soon-to-be-school-kid fretting over how they're going to cope with starting school?
Forget that. Instead, read our tried-and-tested tips for preparing your child for starting school…
Practice getting dressed and undressed
You might think this is painfully obvious but you'd be surprised how often I've heard teachers lament the fact that so many kids start school without having mastered practical basics like putting on their coat or getting changed for PE.
Now there's no need to go overboard on this - I speak from experience when I say that conducting mock getting-changed-for-PE challenges actually do little to help your child feel ready for the realities of starting school. But it does make sense to make sure your child can put their coat on and take it off, and change into their PE kit - including changing their shoes and putting their kit back into their kit bag.
For those of us (ok, me) who tend to do too much for our kids, sending them off to school where they'll have to fend for themselves more often can feel really daunting but a little bit of prep can go a long way to making you both feel ready for this big step.
Do a practice school run
It's a clever one, this, and something which never would have occurred to me if someone wiser hadn't suggested it. The thing is, the school run can be a stressful experience all round, so preparing your child for it by doing a dummy run once or twice before school starts can help them get their little heads around what's required of them once the school term really begins. And it can't hurt to acquaint yourself with the route / parking challenges / time it takes to actually get yourselves there at a five-year-old's pace, either!
Don't freak out that they can't count to ten in Mandarin
It's natural to worry about your child's literacy and numeracy skills when they start school - will they be able to keep up with their peers? Have you covered enough ground at home or will the teachers spot on Day One that you haven't exactly been hot-housing your little one and teaching her to read from the age of two?
Look, try not to worry about this stuff. Competitive mummy syndrome can send us all a bit nuts from time to time but the fact is we're sending our kids to school so that fully qualified (and more patient) people can teach them all that stuff. And definitely don't worry about things like whether your child can write or recognise their own name - the first year of starting school is a huge learning curve and your little one's teacher will have lots of ingenious ways of gently encouraging them towards reading and writing once they're good and ready.
And I mean everything. I aspire to be one of those mummies who hand sews pretty, personalised labels into her children's school clothing but frankly I consider myself winning if I've remembered to scrawl our surname on the garment labels in biro. (The big benefit of doing labelling this way is that outgrown items can easily double as hand-me-downs with no need for additional labelling later on!) On the other hand, if you want to do this like a grown up then you can't go wrong with the personalised name stamps from Stamptastic. You can read the original Playpennies Stamptastic review here - and ours are still going strong several years later!
Talk it over
I have pretty much one piece of advice to tackling every major milestone of your child's life, and it's this: talk it over with them. My kids never cease to amaze me when it comes to their capacity to verbalise difficult feelings or come to terms with life challenges through the medium of a friendly chat with mum. So create opportunities for your child to talk through their feelings about starting school, and if you need some help to get the conversation started, I Am Too Absolutely Small for School by Lauren Child from the Charlie and Lola series of books is an unbeatable bedtime book to help prepare your child for starting school.
Do you have any tips for starting school to add to our list? We'd love to hear them - leave us a comment below or join the discussion over on our Facebook page. Or share your #tipsforstartingschool with us on Twitter - we're @PlayPennies over there.