life as I experience it

How to get your kid ready to start school

This is the big year for us, it’s the year my son starts school. I started school when I was 7, he starts it at 4. I find it quite challenging to say the least, to start school so young even though it’s just Reception in the first year, which is sort of a Pre-school.

My son went to pre-school for 2 years and grew quite attached to it and to the whole team, teachers and colleagues. Therefore I do expect it to be quite a transition to the “big school” as some people refer to it. So I tried to find ways, through talking to other parents and teachers and reading, to make things as smooth as possible.

Luckily, I am very happy with the school that my son was offered a place to, so this should also help. Well, actually, this should help me get more comfortable with the change, to be honest!

Back to the child though. Taking into consideration that he is our eldest child, he has no sibling who will be there with him or at least tell him how school is. So we are taking some steps which we hope will help our son be ready for the “big school”. I am listing them in this post, maybe someone will find helpful some of these ideas.

Visit school at the fairs

Usually there is an induction day for all kids starting Reception, meaning that on a particular day they all come for a play and to meet their teacher. This is a lovely idea and it certainly helps. Still, that day can be a bit scary if the kid has never been to a school, and things could be overwhelming. So I thought that a nice way to see the school for the first time could be a fair: most of the schools have fair all around the year (summer fair, Easter fair, Christmas fair) and it’s a more relaxed way of walking through the school and the child can take a look at one’s own pace of all the surroundings. And it is usually also fun since fairs are supposed to be fun.

Meet with colleagues from last year

School is a new concept for a child, no one can be excited about something they have no idea what it’s gonna be like. I remember I imagined school as a room (just like pre-school was) with kids seating on chairs with the number of their year written on the chairs (so the kid in Year 2 would sit on chair with number 2 for example). Kids can only imagine how it will be so I think it helps a great deal to have them talk, if possible, with colleagues from the previous year at pre-school, ex-colleagues that are currently in Reception. This way the kids can hear, first-hand, how things might be.

Read books about school

There are quite a few books, written for the kids, that address this first experience. We bought or borrowed some of them and I like the most the one with a hedgehog where the fears of a kid “to be in Reception” are talked about. So here is a list of books that might help a kid be ready for school (some of them we already have, others seem interesting and might help other kids depending on their preferences):

  • Going to school” from Usbourne
  • Little Hedgehog’s Big Day” – this is the one I mentioned previously, and just take a look at the cover – isn’t the hedgehog cute?
  • Starting School” – by¬†Allan Ahlberg and Janet Ahlberg – kids might already be familiar with these authors as they also wrote “Peepo”, “The Jolly Postman” and “Each Peach Pear Plum”, book whom most kids love
  • Starting School: Do I Have to Go to School?” – it is written by a trained psychotherapist and illustrated by an experienced children’s book artist
  • Hugless Douglas Goes to Little School” – both my kids love Hugless Douglas and my son really enjoyed reading this book at the library and if you haven’t yet referred to school as the BIG school, this book might come very handy getting the kids ready for Reception

Talk about school with enthusiasm

Maybe you like the school that has offered a place for your kid, or maybe you don’t. But your child needs to feel safe at school and to enjoy it as much as possible. So try to talk about his/her school with enthusiasm: talk about the arts&crafts project you saw, talk about the books you noticed at the library, talk about the playground, or about the forest school or PE activities. I am not telling you to lie to your kid, just tell him/her only the good things you noticed in school, only the parts you liked and think he/she will enjoy. Leave unpleasant aspects out (if any), there is plenty of time to discover and talk about them.

Talk about your school experiences

The experience might sound scary anyway, so try not to add a new fear to the already existing ones. On the contrary, talk about what school was like for you, how you felt on the first day there, how you made friends, what were you scared about and realized it wasn’t actually scary at all, and so on. Anything that helps the kids associate school with a nice place to be in.

Relate to known world when talking about school

If you tell your kid “school is the place where you will write lots of texts and learn about Einstein”, it might not communicate too much, it’s a bit too abstract. But tell him/her about school relating to what he/she already knows: “you will do experiments like the one with the vulcano you did in pre-school”, “you will continue to learn phonics, just like you do at pre-school”, “you will play counting games, just like you did this morning with your dad”. Relate to something familiar so that school becomes familiar and therefore less scary. The unknown can be scary, but the familiar can be quite exciting.

I hope all Reception kids to have exciting days this year!


Photo credit: e_cathedra via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

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