Now that you have your school place allocated, lots of people will start talking to your child about going to school, telling them that it’s exciting, asking them questions about it and making a big fuss. Unless they have older siblings then they’ve probably never set foot in a school, and they certainly won’t understand how the school day works or what to expect when they get there. It’s easy to forget this, as adults who have been through the system, and it’s easy for small people to become overwhelmed by all the talk about school. Here are some tips for helping prepare them before September gets here.
- Talk about school. Talk about how most people go to school, how mummy, daddy, granny, grandad etc all went to school. You could ask grandparents/aunts/uncles to share stories about their time at school (positive stories – no talk of canes and detentions!).
- If you can, get hold of some uniform (not necessarily new as we all know children grow as soon as you buy them new clothes) so they can play ‘dressing up’ in it, and get used to how it feels and what they look like. They can also practise putting it on and taking it off, just like they might need to if they change for PE. Talk to them about how everyone will wear the uniform and look at pictures to show them.
- Walk past the school they’ll be going to regularly. Nearer the time, walk past at pick-up so they can see the children coming out of school. Talk to them about who will take them and pick them up.
- Chat to them about what happens at school – learning, playing, breaktime, lunchtime etc.
- Talk to them about the adults they’ll see in school. Explain that their teacher and teaching assistant will be like the keyworkers at nursery, but that they’ll call them Miss/Mrs/Mr instead of by their first name.
- Read books about starting school, or stories set in school.
- Role-play schools at home. Take turns to be the teacher and set up a class with teddies and soft toys. Pretend to do story time or look at numbers etc
Most importantly, follow your child’s lead. If they show you they don’t want to talk about school, or they aren’t interested at that moment, then leave it. Make sure that any mention of school is a positive one so they can build that association.
Finally, do NOT stress about what your child can or cannot already do academically. They are going to school to learn – they do not need to know the alphabet, be able to read key words, be able to count to 100 or write their name yet! If they can then fab, but it is not a requirement so don’t put yourself through the stress of ‘getting your child ready’ for school!
Written by Sarah Lewis – antenatal teacher and postnatal doula in Portsmouth.