Here are some suggestions to help the process be as stress-free as possible – we need a bit of a break this year!
1: Get your school uniform early, and let them wear it – and practice getting dressed independently
Sure, it seems like a special treat to save up for that first day of school, but if they can practice getting dressed and undressed – pulling up socks, jumpers on and off, doing buttons back up, they will be so much more confident when they are on their own at school.
It is an awesome confidence booster for your child to be able to dress and undress themselves whilst at school, particularly jumpers and shoelaces – imagine the boost of pride they will have if they can tie their own shoelaces, even if only on sports day.
If your daughter wears a dress to school, consider sHEROes girls school undies keep your daughter covered, comfortable and confident even when she is wearing a dress.
Order labels for EVERYTHING!
The school uniform you would think – they won’t ever take this off at school – you will be surprised the reasons that come up, and sometimes they will get changed at school! – I like TinyMe.com.au (or a trusty permanent pen)
Even label the insides of shoes!
2: Get excited – make sure there is positive anticipation, and smooth out any nerves
Most of us are lucky enough that our kids are SUPER DUPER EXCITED to be starting Big School, but even the most excited kids still get some nerves. As might you!
If you’ve been able to get to orientation, have converstaions about how much fun it was at orientation, the classrooms, the play equipment, the school buddies.
If you already have friends from daycare or preschool attending the same school, it could be good to organise a playdate before the first day of school. If that is too difficult right now, just talking about these friends and school can be exciting and remind your child that they have some familiar faces at their new school.
Even if you don’t know anyone – walk or ride past the new school as often as you can and point out the fun play equipment or the play area if you know where it is. Familiarising with the environment is great. Talking about positive experiences you have had going places where you knew nobody but had fun and made new friends can help, and modeling that behavior in your everyday – asking the shop assistant their name, introducing yourself to neighbors, anything that shows your child how to make new friends can all be helpful.
Being excited and enthusiastic while talking about your child starting school will send the message that school is exciting and that they’ll not only cope, but enjoy it and have fun.
If your child is not super excited, and perhaps even anxious, and the above ideas don’t seem to be helping, try playing schools with them. Be prepared for some answers that may surprise you – “No – don’t want to play school” or “I don’t want to go”
Don’t panic if you hear these statements – it’s great if your child is vocalising these concerns. Our auto pilot fix-it mentality might respond with answering: something along the lines of “You’ll love it once you start.” or “Don’t worry, you’ll be fine.”
BUT – The best way to answer is to use this opportunity to try and extract the reasons behind the anxiety – ask questions, remembering that it is very difficult for your child to articulate the exact reasons – they may not even know themselves 🤪 but an open conversation is always a great thing – “I didn’t want to go to school when I was little either. What are you worried about the most?” or “Why do you feel that?” Be open to what comes out, try and keep the conversation open.
Maybe you need to make suggestions for them like “It could be ok if I promise I’ll be there when you go.” Or “Maybe if you take your special pencil/pocket size stuff toy/(slot your own security item in here) you’ll feel better.”
Think about how YOU’ll feel on the first day. You could be feeling sad or worried too! A great excuse to plan a lunch with a girlfriend, and give yourself a positive distraction! See your child off with a happy, confident goodbye – and pack tissues in your handbag for the minute after they walk into the classroom 🤪
You Got this!
3: Getting enough sleep and cruising back into “routine”
All children need lots of sleep for their brains to be ready to learn. Ideally, they should get around 10 to 12 hours – but only you know best what your child needs.
I’m the mean Mum who makes my kids go to bed super early. I know I will be faced with grumpy ramifications otherwise. They know other kids go to bed a fair bit later than them and they also know I’m not negotiable (within reason) so that works for us. When they were in kindy that meant 7pm at our house. The peace and quiet after bedtime was an added bonus! If only they still went to bed at that time🤪
School Starters will be SUPER TIRED the first few weeks – maybe even the first two terms. It is an enormous adjustment for our tiny humans, not only physically but socially and mentally draining for them – so much for them to take in those first few weeks. Try to get into the habit if you aren’t already of a strict as you can manage bedtime – however that works in your family. It is harder in summer obviously because of daylight savings, but just remember – you are the boss, not the sunlight! They will adjust 🤪 If you haven’t ever had a strict sleep routine before, nows the time to enforce it as best as can – maybe make it a part of the adjustment to get ready for big school.
Alysha Griffiths from Breakaway Tuition suggests it is a great idea to gently get back into routine sooner rather than later, it helps with the transition after such a long break.
This doesn’t mean the end of the party or turning into a tyrant before the holidays end, just a gradual return to the school schedule or close to it. Neither you nor your child needs the stress of a sudden and hideous early start on Day 1 of school. My girls are getting up at 9am at the moment (lucky ducks!) Each day I’m going in a bit earlier and waking them up, we normally get up about 7am during school – so we definitely need to start that gentle swing back to reality.
If you can find out the meal times at your new school also, it could be helpful to try and start to work towards those times sooner rather than later.
4: Healthy eating
5: Regular Playgrounds and Movement
Scientific evidence is piling up that proves regular exercise provides important cognitive benefits that make concentration easier! Part of the brain is used which can help kids focus, and teachers have noted a marked improvement in students‘ ability to concentrate, participate, and retain information during the class after they had exercised. Inappropriate behavior also improves after exercise!
So you get a triple benefit! Happy Feeling Endorphins, calm excess energy AND helps kids concentrate!
It’s great to start early in encouraging daily exercise. It shouldn’t be hard to encourage – children love to play and be active. According to our government guidelines, to benefit their health, children over 5 should be physically active for at least 60 minutes every day. It doesn’t have to be a structured sport – anything that gets them up and moving will do.
This is such a fantastic opportunity to get your kids to try a huge variety of different activities, both through school and externally. Not only do the kids get the physical and mental benefits, I strongly believe trying different sports gives kids lots of fun opportunities AND is fantastic for building their self-esteem.
It’s a no-brainer that we all want a long and healthy life for our children. Of course, the reality check is that daily exercise doesn’t always happen, and there are days when we can’t be bothered or can’t fit it in – no need to guilt out over it. I go by the 80-20 rule – keep to your healthy habits 80% of the time and things will work out OK!
And for the people who define themselves and their kids as not sporty? Think outside the box! There are a massive amount of body moving activities that are not “sport”.
Walk the dog! Or the neighbor’s dog! Go to the playground. Try yoga! Gardening could work! You can change the trajectory of your kid’s life (and maybe even your own) by implementing this enormously beneficial habit NOW!
A bit of a preach here 🤪 – taking your kids to sport and sitting on the sidelines with glued to your mobile phone is not modeling the behavior you want to see in your kids when they are teenagers. Use this opportunity to be an excellent role model AND get your own body moving – walk around the netball courts/soccer field and listen to a podcast or talk with a friend and get yourself some social, mental and physical benefits for yourself!
While I’m on the sport bandwagon, (which you can tell I am very passionate about!) – I want to add a little bit to my SoapBox Speech🤩
I strongly believe that what you wear can impact your performance – for instance wearing a full set of professional clothes while working at home helps you be more productive, and I do believe in the concept of the school uniform – and that all kids should have a choice of what they are comfortable wearing. However, I do worry that sometimes our daughters may feel limited when wearing a dress. This is a learned behavior and in my opinion an unnecessary one. I believe that our girls should be brave and curious and embrace every opportunity no matter what they are wearing. That is why I developed sHEROes – to give our girls great fitting underwear with full coverage that stays in place and allow them to participate fully, no matter what they are wearing.
A lot of parents like to put their girls in the shorties under skirts and dresses – it is a very popular choice.
While thoroughly respectful of this option, my own philosophy is that everybody has legs and our girls should not feel afraid of their legs being seen – just the same as they might feel while wearing a swimming costume.
sHEROES underwear fit better than regular underwear and keep all the important stuff covered, and that works for me and many others 🤩
6: Going to the bathroom and sanitising
To ensure your child is confident using the bathroom at school make sure they know the drill – remember to wipe, flush and wash their hands every time. You will feel like a broken record, but keep it up! Over and over and over……
Again, being able to fix their own clothing here is an enormous confidence booster. I recommend a spare pair of underwear (and socks) in their schoolbag in case of accidents.
A small bottle of their own sanitiser is a good reminder – the school and the teachers will be reminding them to keep their hands clean and will supply – but it gives the kids a bit of independence to have their own? Sometimes the bathrooms run out of soap too. It is gross but does happen – just takes a kid to go in and mess around with the dispenser.
My daughter gets very dry lips, so I send her with a lip balm too. And most weeks, I put it through the wash in the pocket of her school dress, so one that won’t leak is great? I’ll let you know when I find one to recommend. We live in a regional community so a screw-top one works for us but in a higher density population this probably would be more stressful this year!
7: Learning to make friends and pretend play
Most kids will know at least one or two others when starting at a new school, but there will be some who are very nervous or don’t know anyone at all. No one will know everyone! There will always be new kids to get to know, so try and make it exciting and fun, and use these three skills to help to make friends:
- Starting Conversations. Your child might benefit from making a list of questions to ask, like “did you get to go on a holiday?”, or “what are you looking forward to most at school?” or the most straightforward – “what’s your name?”. Simple and relevant will make it easy for them to remember what to ask, and give them the confidence to initiate conversations with other kids.
- Just be friendly! Put a smile on your face, stand next to someone and see what happens! Simple activities like joining a conversation without interrupting is a great skill. Saying something nice about the person you are talking to is a great way for little kids to make friends too, “That’s a cool lunchbox”, “I like your schoolbag/pencil case” etc. If they are super nervous you could practice role-playing or making similar comments to shopkeepers/neighbors and visitors to get them in the habit.
- Listening is another great one. They will have sooooo many things going on that this will be tricky – remembering names/details might be harder for them at first until they get into the swing of school. But it’s good to try and get them to really listen to the answers to their questions, it might bring up more to talk about!
Friendship problems are rare in infants’ school, tending to start later as kids mature. One less this to freak out about hopefully!
Imaginative play is a big part of school. Roleplay stimulates your child’s imagination, enhances social development, and encourages friendship through cooperation, listening and turn-taking. This can vary from chasing dragons to Mum’s and Dad’s – often a funny one to overhear🤣
8: Reading and writing practice
Knowing how to confidently write and read their own name is a great skill for your child to have mastered before they start school. You can download the practice fonts here. Nicknames and surnames as well would be handy for them to recognise in advance, but don’t beat yourself up if your child is struggling with this – they all learn at different rates. That’s why they go to school – to learn to do this stuff!
It can be helpful to read stories together. Show them how to open the book without destroying it 🤪, point to the title, the letters, words and pictures so they know what they mean. Ask questions about the story so they get a bit used to what it might be like in their classroom.
Most kids are well experienced with this, but it doesn’t hurt to let them practice another role play game here where they pretend to be the teacher and read the book for you.
You might already be wondering if your school starter needs extra help. Alysha Griffiths from Breakaway Tuition says:
At the beginning of kindergarten, kids should be given the opportunity to get used to schooling and the changes in their daily routine. Not only that, they are needing to navigate a whole stack of new changes in learning, expectations, rules and new friends and teachers. It is overwhelming for adults……. Let alone little kids! So no. Let your child settle in. Especially in Kindergarten. If you are worried about their reading being behind, then the best thing you can do is read with them each night at home. Not a lot. Just a little.
More about learning for a variety of ages on her blog post HERE
9: Classroom crafts
Concentration and focus come easier to some kids than others. Don’t stress if your child is finding it harder, school will help. in the mean time, if you can give your child has plenty of opportunities to play with the things she will be using in school, like scissors, pencils and paint. This way your child will feel sure and capable using them at school.
Other activities you can practice at home that will help build concentration skills:
- Stringing beads in sequences
- Reading Books and asking questions
- Board games – great for practicing taking turns too.
- Memory Games – passing on messages or lists
10: Look after yourself
It’s a big experience for you too! Your baby is growing up and for some of us this will be the first time you have spent so much time independently for years! Let yourself enjoy all the feels, even the sad ones, and if you can, take a few days to adjust yourself. No reaction is right or wrong. You’ll find your tribe amongst the other parents too, just as for the kids, it might take a little while to adjust, and find the right fit, but you will work out your path as you go, and settle into this new stage.
Oh, and in the afternoons, be prepared for picking up wiped out, exhausted, non-responsive kids from school who can’t remember a single thing they did that day. And the meltdowns that come with that. ?
Best Wishes to you and your gorgeous child on the exciting transition to big school!!!!