Articles for parents

Preparing children for their first day at school

Aug 2013
Preparing children for their first day at school
Get children involved in picking out their uniform, school bags and stationery

Although some children may have attended nursery from an early age, the first day of school can be filled with a sense of trepidation. There are a variety of techniques that parents can use to help make children's introduction to school life as smooth as possible.

Prepare for the day weeks in advance
Use the last few weeks of the summer holidays to prepare children for their first term at school. Get them involved in picking out their uniform, school bags and stationery.

Establish a school routine with your children, outlining when they will need to go to sleep, wake up, get dressed and pack their bags. Creating a visual timetable to outline the school day including assemblies, lessons and morning/afternoon breaks could also be helpful.

Build on the skills they will need
Children will need to concentrate for long periods of time, interact with their peers and listen to detailed instructions once they begin their school life.

Developing these skills will ensure your child is well-equipped for some of the challenges they will encounter when they start school.

The DirectGov website recommends the following activities to foster these skills:

  • playing games that involve taking turns or speaking in front of a group

  • playing with children of a similar age to develop social skills

  • reading books about starting school

  • using your child's favourite toys to role-play going to school

  • painting and drawing

Reassure your child

Talk through your child's fears and help them visualise what they will be doing at school, where they will be going and the duration of activities. Emphasise the fact that there will be plenty of activities they will enjoy doing during the course of the school day, as well as letting them know that someone they are familiar with will be back to collect them at the end of the day. It may help for an older sibling, cousin or family friend to talk to them about what to expect and to highlight all the benefits of going to 'big school'.

Get them used to the basics of self-care
There are some routines you can run-through with your child over the summer holidays which will help them to be a bit more independent when they start school. Going to the toilet and washing their hands, getting dressed for PE and finding coat pegs are all routines you can run over again and again with your child until they feel confident carrying them out on their own.