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Starting school is one of life’s major milestones, and for many parents it can be an emotional time. It’s natural to feel both nervous and excited, but with a little advance preparation both you and your little one will be able to cope with the transition more easily.

Here are our top 10 tips to help your child start school with a smile.

1. Talk about school

Start talking about school, and ask your child how they are feeling. What are they most looking forward to? Are they worried about anything? Read books about starting school together, and look at our prospectus and website together, talking about the pictures. If your child seems anxious about school, try focusing on the things they’ll like best – maybe the playground or new friends.  

2. Stay calm and smile!

It’s natural to feel nervous about your child starting school, but remember that he or she can easily pick up on your emotions. Ensure that you are always positive when talking about school. If you are enthusiastic and confident that all will be well, then your child will feel the same way. Avoid using any negative language such as, “You’ll get in trouble if you behave like that at school.”

3. Encourage independence

A child who can do things for him or herself will settle more quickly and feel happier at school. There are many useful skills you can practise to help your child become independent and confident, including sitting up at a table, eating with a knife and fork, using a tissue to blow their nose, washing their own hands, tidying up after themselves and being fully toilet trained during the day. But don’t worry if your child can’t do all of these things before they start school; teachers and support staff will help them learn these skills, so do let them know what your child finds tricky.

4. Try on the uniform

Your child will enjoy trying on their smart new uniform. Let them practise getting dressed and undressed in preparation for PE lessons. When shopping for new uniform, look for items with larger buttons that are easier for little fingers, and when it comes to shoes, velcro is preferable to laces. Teach them tricks for getting dressed, such as having the labels at the back, rolling up tights, and holding cuffs to avoid sleeves riding up. Why not take a photograph of them in their new uniform and stick it to the fridge, to help them picture themselves at school?

5. Encourage name recognition

Your child won’t be expected to write their own name independently at the start of school, but it’s often helpful if they can recognise their own name on a coat peg or name label. Put their name on their bedroom door (and anywhere else where it will be seen regularly), and put name labels on absolutely everything, then show them to your child so they know where the labels are.

6. Play listening games

Games such as ‘Simon says’ and ‘Can you find?’ are great for helping little ones practise their listening skills, which will be important at school where they will need to follow their teacher’s instructions. Once your child has mastered simple instructions, try adding two or three together, for example, “Please take off your coat, then wash your hands and sit down at the table.”

7. Arrange a play date

If you already know some other children who will be in your child’s class, why not organise a play date or outing together before school starts? As well as helping the youngsters to develop their social skills, it’s helpful for you to be able to chat about your own feelings and anxieties with their parents, who may be feeling the same.

8. Establish a routine

We all know getting out of the house in the morning with a small child in tow can be a challenge, especially if you need to be somewhere for a specific time! As the start of term approaches, try to get into the school routine, so your child gets used to getting up, going to bed, and having meals and snacks at the times they will on school days. Practise the morning routine, including getting dressed and eating breakfast in time to leave. It’s also a good idea to practise the school run so that you’re both prepared for the journey. Bath time and stories will help children to wind down before bed, and nutritious meals and plenty of sleep will help them to concentrate and learn more easily during their time at school.

9. Work together

PACEY, the Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years, has produced some great fact sheets and resources for parents and children about to start school. Their #ReadyForSchool worksheets, covering topics including mark making, listening, talking and numbers, can be accessed online at www.pacey.org.uk/schoolready

10. Talk to your child’s teacher

Your child’s teacher will be an expert in helping children to settle in, learn and thrive at school. However, you know your child best, so if there is anything you think might help your child feel more settled, suggest it to the class teacher during the first few weeks.

Find out more about Reception at Farlington School

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