Starting school is a big step so in the months leading up to the start date you might be thinking about what you can do to help aid the transition from home, nursery or preschool into full time schooling. There are lots of things you can do to help prepare your child for starting school from: familiarising them with what will happen, buying them what they need and teaching them what they need to know. This can help ensure your child is excited about starting school and reduce any nerves they might be feeling.

A parent and child sitting together looking at an early reading book to prepare for starting primary school
There is lots you can do to prepare your child for starting primary school

How To Help Prepare Children For Starting Primary School

Make Special Memories

Whether you are a stay at home parent, you work full time or something in between you can choose to spend the last few months before school making special memories. When children first start school (even if they have been at nursery full time) they can struggle with tiredness and may just want to rest at weekends so it makes the time before they start school extra special. A fun idea can be to put together a list of everything you would both like to do, from the simple to the extravagant.  It doesn’t have to be adventurous places to go, special moments can include: baking a cake, planting some seeds or redecorating their bedroom. Don’t worry too much if you don’t get everything done on your list though, there are always school holidays.

Read Stories

So you have fun times planned, but how do you help your child feel ready for school? It can be quite a scary time for them, particularly if they haven’t gone to preschool so it is helpful to familiarise them with what will happen. There are lots of picture books which cover starting school; your local library is a great place to help you find these. Reading can be a good way to start a conversation and help children to verbalise any fears they might have.

If your child doesn't really like books then there are lots of children's programmes that cover the same experience, you will be able to find these on BBC iplayer or YouTube.

Visit The School

It can really help children if they can picture where they are going so it is a good idea to familarise them with the school and morning routine. Normally schools will invite new pupils to visit before the Reception year starts, but as this can’t always happen at the moment you might want to walk past the school so your child can see where they will be going in September.

Talk about the routine too including getting up in the morning and what they will do when at school. You can email the school to find out what the routine will be and explain to your child that they will have break times and lunch, that they might need to ask to go to the toilet and that they will have carpet time.

Meet other families

It can be helpful to meet a few of the other children who will be in their year. Local facebook groups are often a great way to find other children who will be going to the same school and to arrange a playground play date before they start. Having a few familiar faces is helpful on the first day plus it’s nice for you to meet other parents you will be seeing regularly for the next few years.

Practical Skills

Children aren’t expected to start school and be completely independent, but it is helpful if they can get dressed in their school uniform themselves after PE (it can be helpful to choose uniform with zips instead of buttons and shoes with velcro instead of laces). They are normally expected to carry their own lunch tray, cut up their own food and to be able to go to the toilet independently so these are all good skills to practice.

Reading and Writing

Opinion is divided on how much you should do with children academically before they start school. Some children can already read and write all their letters before they start while others don’t know any. It is helpful at a minimum for children to be able to recognise their name and it might be good for them to practice writing it too. Some children will want to learn more before they start and others won’t so feel free to follow their lead without pressure. The child’s birth month has a huge impact on children’s developmental readiness at this age  with some children only having just turned 4 and others about to turn 5 when they walk through the school gates for the first time. 

What To Buy

Schools will normally hold a meeting towards the end of summer term or they will send a letter to tell parents what they need to know and buy, but it probably wont be a lot. You will need appropriate uniform, shoes and coat as well as school or book bag and water bottle. Some schools have very specific requirements about these so it is best to wait until you hear from them or to speak to parents with children already at the chosen school. Primary school children are rarely expected (or allowed) to bring in their own stationary or non essential items.

How To Prepare Yourself

Finally don’t forget that becoming a school Mum or Dad can be a big transition for you too. It’s not unusual to have mixed feelings or even to cry as you walk away from the gates on the first day. That’s ok. Plan something for when you get home so you have something to look forward to and a distraction. It will be half term before you know it

Post by Kate, mum of 2 school age children