5 Tips for a Successful Start to School

child starting school

You want your child to have a successful start to school. It’s a huge milestone for them. Some children have had years of experience at nursery or pre-school. For others, it’s the first time they’ve been in the structured educational setting of a school.

It can also be a hard change for you as a parent. Your child is growing up and moving away from being completely reliant on your care. You may feel anxious about whether they’re ready for school, or wish you could keep them at home for a bit longer.

1: Preparing for a great start to school

Involve your child with preparations for school. They will enjoy getting to choose classroom essentials like a new water bottle and bag. It creates excitement about starting. They can help you arrange their new uniform in their drawer and decide where their school equipment should be kept.

Read any information you get from school with your child. The school is likely to share the name of their new teacher, details about the daily routine, and where the classroom is. Many schools send out detailed welcome packs, including photos of key staff and maps your child can look at.

If possible, visit the school to get familiar with it. If you aren’t able to go inside, simply practising the journey to and from the school gates will help it feel more familiar.

There are many books and TV shows about starting school. Check out the CBeebies website for a whole range of resources you can use to prepare your child for a good start to school. Use them as a starting point for conversations so you can better understand how your child is feeling about the change ahead.

2: Talking about school

Your child may have very mixed emotions about starting school. Many enjoy the idea of being a big kid, others won’t feel ready and want things to stay as they are.

Your child is likely to have lots of questions. They may worry about things you’ve not even thought about. Don’t dismiss their worries. Things that seem minor or obvious to you, like where to put your PE kit, can seem huge to them.

Answer their questions, but remember it’s alright not to know everything. You could say, “I’m not sure about that, but your teacher will tell us the answer.” 

When you talk to your child, stay positive about school. You might feel very anxious or upset, but try not to let this show.

Parent preparing child's lunch box for starting school

3: The day before school begins

The first day of school can feel stressful. You, or your child, may feel upset or nervous. Preparing well the day before is a good way to reduce any anxieties. Try taking first day photos in advance to give you something less to worry about on the day.

Get everything ready and laid out the night before so you don’t have to worry about forgetting anything in the morning. Keep to a calm bedtime routine so they have a good night’s sleep before the big day.

4: Making their first day a good start to school

Try not to have big expectations that this will be the best first day ever. Your child may be teary and reluctant to go. That’s okay and a perfectly normal reaction to such a big change. The teaching staff will be very used to first day wobbles and will know how to help them. 

Your child may struggle to say goodbye and leave you. They may be very upset and crying. Don’t rush them and try to stay calm as you reassure them. Show them how confident you are that this will be an enjoyable experience, even if you feel differently inside.

Other children will rush in without a backwards glance. Let them go in and avoid calling them back for a last hug or kiss, as this prolongs the experience. 

After the first drop off, plan something to do while your child’s at school so you don’t sit and worry. Even if they went into school crying, they will most likely settle down quickly and have a wonderful day.

preparing for starting primary school

5: After the first day at school

Starting school is exhausting! Expect your child to be tired, hungrier, and more emotional than usual. Plan quieter times after school rather than filling each day with play dates so they have a chance to unwind after a busy day.

It often takes a little while for children to settle down to the new routine. They may think as they’ve been once, they don’t have to go back again! Don’t worry if they say they hate school, cry in the mornings, feel sick, or want to stay home. It’s perfectly normal for them to take some time to adjust to the change.

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