Are your kids moving from nursery to ‘big school’ this autumn? Lisa Lewis, mum-of-three, experienced teacher and early learning expert, shares winning strategies for a smooth transition.
Starting school can be a challenging time for both kids and parents. You’re probably wondering where the years have flown, while worrying about how your little baby will adapt to all the unfamiliar sights and sounds that await at school. For children, many are hesitant to go somewhere new and see people they’ve never met before. A lot also depends on your child’s individual temperament, as well as the flexibility and communicative nature of the welcoming school. With a little preparation, however, you can help your child make a successful transition, and soon, the thrill of new experiences and engaging activities will take over, as he or she settles into this exciting new environment.
1. Talk it out
The idea of ‘big school’ can be very appealing for children, but it can also be quite frightening. Talk to your child in advance and tell them where they will be going, what they will be doing. Talk openly about school and tell them stories about your most enjoyable moments at school.
2. Show and tell
It’s useful to let your child know what’s coming by reading them books about starting school. Point out school buses and neighbourhood kids going to school. When your child knows this is normal for all kids, their anxiety will reduce.
3. Purposeful play
If your child is an auditory learner, try songs like ‘Wheels on the Bus’ or purchase school bus toys to model the process for kinesthetic learners.
4. Scout around
Visit the school together and ask to be shown the places that are really important to your child and their settling in process, i.e., the toilets, where to get snacks, the self-registration area, the coat racks, etc. Your child needs reassurance about the more immediate and fundamentally important areas at this stage. According to Lisa, knowing where the toilets and sinks are has been the number one concern of every single child she has ever taught!
5. Practise makes perfect
Practise new routines. Whether it’s helping pack a lunch box, opening it on their own, or going to the washroom independently, your child will have to manage more on their own and doing it first at home will help develop confidence faster.
6. Reach out
If possible, meet the teacher together and encourage your child to say ‘hello’ and share a few things about herself that the teacher might like to know. Make friends, don’t feel shy about approaching other mums who may be feeling exactly the way you are!
7. It’s more fun with friends
Find out the names of other children who will also be starting and invite them to play with your child beforehand. This will add to the familiar and your child will feel less anxious during the day at school.
8. Shopping trip
Go on a special and exciting trip together to buy the uniform and essential items for starting school, such as a lunch box, new shoes and stationery. Make it into an adventure rather than a chore and try to do it one-on-one without other little ones to distract attention.
9. Assure and reassure
Assure your child – children thrive on reassurances and this is particularly the case when starting something new. When it comes to attending school, small children will need your confirmation that everything will be okay and that you will be there at the end of the day, if not to pick them up then later on at home. Having this sense of security even when you’re not there will make a huge difference in your child’s first school experience.
10. Wipe out the weepies
On the first day, when reaching the door, smile and talk with the teacher in a friendly way. Relax and don’t fuss. Let your child know that you’re confident that they can manage. Remember that your child is alert to the emotional messages you send out, so don’t panic and don’t let the child see you crying!
Finally, congratulate yourself. If you have done most of the above you will have been instrumental in giving your child the very best start possible to their new school life.