If you have a 4 year old starting school, you’ll be counting the days until the start of term with trepidation! If you don’t have older children at school then it’ll be a whole new experience – and not just for your child!
It can be a shock to discover that not only do kids have to toe the line and learn the rules when it comes to starting school, but parents do too! You’ll need to get your child there on time and collect at the appointed slot. Lateness won’t be looked on well and you really don’t want to create a bad impression at the start of term!
Water bottles will need to be named and filled – try our Personalised Bottle Bands for kids’ school bottles – and uniform clearly marked with your child’s name too. Hair tidy and brushed – lose the beach surfer hair look before the first day of term! Starting school means looking smart!
There will also be the other parents to get to know – and you’ll come across the class WhatsApp group! Usually one parent will volunteer to act as class parent representative and will let other parents know of forthcoming events and important bits of information. Some people are happy to step up and do this – others shrink as far away as possible!
Class Whats App groups can be lifesavers if you tend to forget events and things your child should be bringing to school! Class reps often also help to arrange nights out for the mums – and the dads may have nights out too!
You’ll probably be with these parents for a few years at least so it’s a great idea to get to know people and maybe organise a few mum and child play dates too to help build friendships. Starting school means a whole load of new friends for your child – and for you!
At the school gate it can be just as nerve wracking for you as for your child – they aren’t the only ones being launched into a world of new people! If you’re doing pick up and drop off you’ll soon get used to the way things are done and you’ll start to recognise other parents and have a bit of a chat – sometimes people you would never otherwise have met can become good friends.
If your child is starting school and you’re at work, you might have a childminder or after school care arranged. You’ll skip the school gate – but it’s still good to meet the other parents at nights out and share experiences.
Starting school means starting phonics if your child hasn’t already done so!
Your school will probably have a morning where you’ll be invited to watch the kids learn maths and phonics – covid permitting. This will give you an idea of what goes on and how phonics works if you don’t already know. You’ll definitely be learning a lot about it in the first couple of years of school!
It’s a really good idea to read to your child each day in the holidays and get them used to looking at books with you – maybe just the pictures at first, asking them what they can see and what they think is going on. Some children start to learn phonics at nursery and preschool – which gives them a head start!
Other kids won’t be ready to begin learning these things until they’re into their first year in reception at school. Don’t worry if they are a bit slower to start – that doesn’t mean they won’t catch up as time goes on. Practise and keep practising!
Once kids start school you’ll be expected to record the reading your child does, so be prepared for this – you can get into training over the holidays! If you aren’t sure what phonics is, have a look at Jolly Phonics, often the Jolly Phonics songs are learned when starting school too!
Anna at miniwritersclub has great phonics resources for kids about to start school, and also for those transitioning into year 1. Have a look at what she has to offer! It’ll be really useful to you to learn how the phonics alphabet sounds as this will form the basis of your child’s reading. It can seem a bit confusing at first but you’ll soon get the hang of it!
Oxford Owl too has great advice for parents of kids in reception and beyond, and also a huge range of free online books for kids to read, often with questions to check understanding. Oxford Reading Tree books are widely used so if you can pick up a set of these then you’ll be a step ahead! Parents of older kids might have resources like these they are willing to sell on to you, always worth asking around!
It’s worth looking at your school policies on reading and maths to familiarise yourself with the methods they use. It’s important to help your kids using the same methods they are learning at school otherwise kids can become confused – policies change all the time so it’s worth keeping up to date with these.
It’s assumed that kids starting school won’t take naps during the day so if your child still does, it’s a good idea to try and break the habit before they start. At first they may only do half days, working up to full time over a period of weeks – depending on the policy of your school. Try not to let them nap if they’re just in for the morning – keep them going with activities until later in the day if possible and then they’ll find the transition to full time school easier!
Reception kids are often exhausted after school to begin with so it’s a good idea not to schedule too many after school activities for the first few weeks of term. There’s a lot to get used to and phonics to practise too!
After school tired kids might not want to tell you about their day so don’t be surprised if they don’t want to talk – even though you will want to hear all about it! Some children do come home full of news about their day but others might just want to chill out and relax, they’ll probably tell you more after a good rest and some food!
Getting into the uniform and the morning routine
The uniform – your child may be excited by the uniform or may resist putting it on! A great plan is to practise putting on the uniform in the mornings before school begins – then you can get your child used to it and also get an idea of timescale! Many parents will still be chasing their kids around to get ready on time for years so don’t worry if it is a bit of a hassle! You can set up a reward system for your child if they get themselves ready – or are willing to be dressed!
Routine is the key for this and also for bedtimes – a regular timetable of dinner, bath, story, bed can really help your child settle into school and helps them to get a good sleep too! You’ll also want a bit of an evening to yourself after your day – it’s great when the kids are settled in bed asleep!
It’s a good idea to talk to your child about school during the months before going – about what the days might be like and about dropping them off and collecting them at the end of the day. There are lots of books to help you discuss this with your child – ask at your local library for advice on this. The library will become your new mum and child hang out!
Don’t talk too much about school though as this can cause unnecessary anxiety!
The first parents’ evening comes up really quickly especially if your child doesn’t do full days for a few weeks – you might think it’s too soon for kids to be assessed in any way! It’s great to hear if your child is doing really well and good to talk to the teacher about how you can help them. It can be really hard to hear if your child is struggling – and it can be hard not to take it personally! If you do face this scenario then the teacher should have a plan of action to support your child and should tell you what you can do to help them at home. If they don’t then you should ask!
Don’t worry though, kids develop different skills at different ages and a child who seems behind at first can suddenly progress slightly later! Some of the kids in reception will be 9 or 10 months older than others and that tends to make a big difference socially, physically and with learning. Boys too – often but not always – can take longer to develop and can also be a bit less willing to please!
Be prepared also for the litany of illnesses that often go around once kids start school – especially if they haven’t attended pre-school or nursery! Colds, viruses, sick bugs – all tend to circulate particularly after the October half term in the run up to the Christmas holidays! Of course there is now Covid too to consider – and the jury’s out how it will all go in school this autumn with that! Worms and nits are also not uncommon with lots of kids touching things and sitting close together – as well of course as chicken pox and various other childhood rashes!
Sounds great doesn’t it! Don’t worry though, your child will build a healthy immune system and you’ll find as they go up the school that things like colds don’t seem so constant! Get ready to catch a few bugs yourself though on the way!
School lunches – it really depends on your school’s policy but most encourage kids to have the school lunch – not least because the numbers having it are counted and funding allocated accordingly! It’s also a good way to get fussy eaters to try different foods – if they see the other kids eating it then they might just try it! A hot lunch can also be more satisfying for the kids in the middle of the day and – usually – quite nutritious as they should conform to nutritional standards.
It can be difficult for parents to let go control over everything a child is eating but sometimes it’s a good idea! Of course there is usually the option to bring a packed lunch – you could try a bit of both.
Birthday parties – invariably in Reception lots of kids will have parties and often invite the whole class. It can get surprisingly expensive – but you don’t have to give the best or most extravagant party or present! It’s not a competition – honestly! It can seem a bit like that – you don’t have to do a big party though as it can be a real pressure and expensive. A playdate is just as good! Your child will probably want a party but if it’s going to cause anxiety then it’s really not necessary!
Often parents whose kids have similar birthdays get together to arrange a party – which shares the cost and the jobs! If there’s a present list then you can collaborate on these too to make the cost manageable.
One of the things about starting school – for parents and children – is that you can begin the endless process of making comparisons. So and so is better at phonics, so and so is having a huge party etc…..it’s the realisation for your child that everyone isn’t the same and different kids can do different things! This can be hard for your child to understand – you can help by talking to them about it and asking them how they feel.
PKS have a brilliant set of Wooden Emotion Cards to help your child communicate their feelings to you! Cards are marked with expressive emotion faces which can make it easier for your child to talk about their thoughts and feelings. These are ideal for preschoolers and reception age kids as well as older kids too!
This is just a little insight into the things you might encounter when your child starts school! It’s a whole new chapter in your child’s life – and in yours too! Your diary will soon be packed with dates, your email box laden with school emails and your phone buzzing with class group messages. A new world!
Don’t forget that PKS can help you name your kids’ school water bottle – our Personalised Bottle Bands are perfect for the job! Have a look in our shop and on our Etsy page for our bottle name bands, Wooden Emotion Cards and other exciting products too!
Good luck on the first day at school!