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 the 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 you too will find these ideas helpful.
How to help my child be ready to start school?
Visit the school fairs
Usually, there is an induction day for all kids starting Reception. 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. Things could be overwhelming.
So I thought that a nice way to see the school for the first time could be going to the 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 previous years
School is a new concept for a child. No one can be excited about something they have no idea what it’s going to 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 a chair with number 2 for example).
Kids can only imagine how it will be. 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 that help your child with school readiness
There are quite a few children books that address this first experience and smooth the path for your kid to be ready to start school. We bought or borrowed some of them.
Here is a list of books that might help a kid be ready for school (aff links):
- “Going to school” – Usborne First Experiences
- “Little Hedgehog’s Big Day” – my favourite one from this list, as it discusses a kid’s fears of being in Reception
- “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; if you haven’t yet referred to the school as the BIG school, this book might come very handy getting the kids ready for Reception
- “Topsy and Tim start school” – many chilren already know the characters, so this book might seem familiar to them
Talk to children 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.
Try to talk about his/her school with enthusiasm. Talk about the arts&crafts project you saw when visiting. Mention 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 the good things you noticed in school, the parts you liked and think he/she will enjoy. Leave out unpleasant aspects (if any), there will be plenty of time to discover and talk about them.
Share with your kids your school experiences
The prospect of the school experience might sound scary anyway. Try not to add a new fear to the already existing ones. On the contrary, talk about what school was like for you. How did you feel on the first day there? How did you make friends? What were you scared about and realized it wasn’t actually scary at all? Anything that helps your kid associate school with a pleasant place to be in and get closer to being ready to start school.
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. Tell him/her about school relating to what he/she already knows. Things like “You will do experiments like the one with the volcano 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” could be of help.
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 these tips are useful in helping your kid be ready to start ‘the big school’!