First timers starting ‘Big School’ is both exciting and scary. Most preschoolers can’t wait to ‘grow up’, yet they’re unsure what to expect.
- Visit the school together beforehand, observe classwork and meet the other children.
- Talk about what to expect, what will be different from kindy, what will stay the same.
- Tell them some of your favourite school memories.
- Make buying stationery and school uniform exciting and special.
- Prepare a trial lunch box for your child. Check that they know how to open it, what to eat at morning tea and what to leave for lunch. Let the child open the juice and yoghurt without your help. Practice packing away empty containers and rubbish.
- Ensure your child can use the toilet without assistance, particularly if they have new clothes, and that they understand how to lock and unlock the school toilet door.
- Label all their clothes, shoes, togs, towels, bags and stationery. This will avoid the drama of losing things.
- On the day, keep your goodbye short. Tell them to have a good time and that you’ll see them later. If you’re upset, try not to let them see. If they’re upset, put a couple of pretend hugs or kisses in their pocket to take out when needed.
Remember, some children may not be emotionally ready to start school at 5 years old. By law, they only need to start school when they turn 6
settling into a new class
The first weeks of school are designed to help children adjust to the new routine, make friends, and get excited about learning. When they feel safe and happy, they can concentrate on learning. Having cool stationery or sitting next to someone they know may help them settle in.
Food sharing is usually not allowed at school. However, the teacher might agree to cupcakes or fudge pieces on the first day to break the ice.
Think before you enrol in too many after-school activities. While it’s important to learn water safety, another language, music, and how to fall (judo), there’s no need to do in all in one term. Choose what works with your family’s schedule.
Many schools offer lunchtime activities such as art lessons, chess club, netball, cricket, touch rugby, gardening, robotics, drama circle. Check what’s available before you sign up for something similar outside the school.
Some children have a natural knack for forming friendships. They know just the right words, just the right smile, just the right secret handshake. Others need a few pointers:
- Smile and look at the other child’s eyes when talking to them.
- Introduce yourself and ask their name.
- Ask to join in their play. If they say no, say: “That’s okay”, then move on to another group.
Invite other children to play at your house after school. One at a time is a good idea until they all get to know one another.
Bullying can be physical violence, verbal abuse, or exclusion. Teach your child to walk away and tell the teacher if they feel upset or uncomfortable.
Signs that your child may be bullied include:
- unexplained scratches or bruises
- reluctance to go to school
- missing personal belongings
- moodiness or acting out of character.
With 20-30 children in the class, teachers don’t have time to chat to every parent every day. Touch base within the first two weeks to ask how your child’s settling in, and whether there is anything you can do to support their learning.
Many teachers encourage email interaction, and will send out regular newsletters about the term’s learning objectives, sports days, school trips, and fun activities.
Most schools organise meet-the-teacher evenings, parent-teacher conferences, or child-parent-teacher sessions where you can discuss your child’s progress individually.
Don’t hesitate to contact the teacher any time if you have any concerns about your child’s progress or social issues.
Homework reinforces skills that have been taught at school and helps to work independently. Children can learn almost anything if allowed to do it through their strengths. Your child will have a preferred way in which to do homework: it may be alone or in the family room, with background music, while chewing on healthy snacks, in bright sunshine or in a cosy dark room. Experiment to see what works best, or check your child’s preferred learning style (there are many sites to choose from online).
- Make sure your child knows what to do. A chart with stickers or erasable tick marks may be useful.
- Turn electronic distractions into rewards: the child can play with the iPad or watch cartoons if they’re totally ready and there’s still time.
- If they’re a messy eater, keep them in their PJs during breakfast, or let them put on a special apron.
- A healthy breakfast helps kids to learn well. Guidelines vary, but currently they include oatmeal, eggs, smoothies, home-made baked beans on wholegrain toast, unflavoured yoghurt, fresh fruit and nuts.
- If your child is not hungry first thing in the morning, consider getting them up earlier so that they build up an appetite. Use the time to practise reading or watch an educational video.
- Encourage your child to drink plenty of water in the morning, pack a water bottle for school. Good hydration prevents fatigue and dizziness, aids concentration, and increases cognitive abilities
- Serve a snack: raw carrots, slices of cheese, yoghurt, bananas, nuts, wholegrain muffins, air-popped popcorn.
- Talk about their day. If they don’t respond to “How was school?”, ask them to name three highlights and one lowlight, or tell them about your day, or make a guessing game of it (they have to guess what you did, too). Reminisce about your own first day of school, your favourite school activities, your classmates from way back.
- Some children need to decompress after a long day at school. Give them a chance to chill.
- Remember the homework!
- It’s a new school year – let your child set new goals and assume responsibilities. Draw up a chart of household chores (close the curtains, walk the dog, empty the dishwasher), and create a schedule of who does what when.
School-age children need 10-11 hours of sleep every night, otherwise they may become irritable and have trouble paying attention in school. Help them get to bed early: switch off the electronics at least an hour before bedtime, read or talk together, let them enjoy a bubble bath and a glass of milk.
Get everything ready for the next day: clothes set out, lunch made, alarm clock set. Have an early night yourself, this will help you cope with any morning wobbles
by Yvonne Eve Walus