Top Ten Tips for Transition to School
I’m often asked by parents, “How can I make sure my child is ready for school?”, and to be honest there is no magic formula to follow. Some children are so excited that they are in their school uniform for weeks leading up to their first day and they bound into their new classroom without even a glance back at their parents. Others need coaxing and constant reassurance that they will have a great time at school and may need to pried off their parents legs amongst a sea of tears when the time comes to say goodbye. Every child is different and every child transitions to school in their own way, however there are ten top tips for transition to Prep that I often tell the families I work with, and you may be surprised to know that they do not include knowing your “A, B, Cs”; being able to write your name, or knowing what 1+1 equals…..
Make sure your child can unwrap/unlock/open their schoolbag, snack and lunchbox containers/packaging. So many times I see children struggling with their whizz-bang new lunchboxes, only to become really frustrated when they can’t open them and they are too scared to ask their teacher. Practice opening and closing their lunchboxes prior to starting school. It may seem silly, but you will be surprised with how much more comfortable your child will feel if they know how to manage snack and lunch time independently.
Ensure your child is aware that their food in their lunchbox is for both snack and lunch. Often young children will eat everything in their lunchbox at snack time only to get to lunchtime and realise they have nothing left. In the first few weeks, place your child’s snack and lunch in different compartments in their lunchbox and show them clearly what they have to eat for both snack and lunch. Be sure to explain to your child that there will be two or three times to eat food during their school day and let them know they have plenty of food for every break.
Visit your child’s school during the holidays leading up to them starting school. You can take them up to play in the playground or ride their bikes in the school grounds to help them feel more comfortable navigating the outside play area. Often it is the outside unstructured playtime that can be most overwhelming for young children starting school.
When visiting your child’s school, over the break, take the time to show them where the toilets and drink taps are. This is particularly important for young children who are less likely to speak up or ask others for help. Remind them often, to try to remember to go to the toilet and have a drink during their playtimes/breaks. (Many schools will also have visual reminders for the children). Also remind them that it is ok to ask/tell their teacher if they need to go to the toilet during class time. And to be on the safe side, pack a couple of spare pairs of undies in their school bag for those first few weeks
Show your child a number of times where their classroom is and practice lining up outside your child’s classroom, if that is the structure your school follows. Children can often become anxious if they are not sure where to go or where to stand when the bell rings.
If you have the contact details of other children who will be in the same class as your child, organise play dates with them prior to starting school. You could meet at each other’s houses; at parks; or even at the playground at your child’s school. This may be particularly important for your child if they do not know any other children in their class, or if your child feels anxious approaching new children or joining in play with others.
Visit the local library during the holidays and sit with your child and read a story together. Alternatively set up some table top activities at home such as colouring; cutting; puzzles or playdoh and play together with your child. Demonstrate sharing the pencils; scissors; playdoh cutters just as they would need to do at school. This will help your child prepare for some of the routine and structure they will have at school as well as some of the social situations they will need to navigate.
Talk openly with your child about starting school. Ensure your child knows that it is okay to feel a little scared (if they do) or reinforce the excitement they may feel about moving into this next phase. For children who are particularly anxious or require a little more preparation, it can sometimes help to take photos of their school; their classroom; teachers; friends; the outside play areas; toilets etc and talk through each photo with them. Use your I-Pad; I-Phone or even place some hard copies in a little book for them to look through.
Be prepared for those first few weeks to have a very tired child coming home from school. Even though most schools have shorter days or days off during first term, many children are extremely tired and in my experience cranky during those first few weeks. Ensure you give your child plenty of opportunities to rest particularly over the weekends and try to limit their after school activities particularly during first term.
And remember, most importantly, that it is not just your child that may need to adjust to this new stage in their lives. It is perfectly normal for you to feel a mix of emotions as you wave good-bye to them on their first day of school so
Have tissues; coffee, chocolate, champagne, and wine (whatever beverage you may need!) available for immediate use after that first school drop off!
Read the complete Mums Lounge Back to School Guide 2015 here