The first day of primary school is a rite of passage for a young child. While it is a very exciting and happy time, it can also be daunting for both the child and their family. It is a big step into a new chapter of their lives; a significant one, where their school career takes a big step-up, and they will experience new people, routines, and expectations all at once. It can be overwhelming and a sensory overload, particularly on the very first day.
Fortunately, your chosen school should have procedures in place to minimize the uncertainty and there are also some subtle steps that can begin at home, to prepare your child for that first day of primary school. These are simple tasks and routines that can be incorporated easily into day-to-day life, alleviating some of the stress and anxiety that can accompany the first day of school.
A large proportion of a student’s school-life is based on routine, whether that be their timetabling, lunch/ breaktimes, extra-curricular activities or music lessons. Although there is an element of this in pre-school/ kindergarten, it won’t be to the same level as a primary school.
You can prepare your child for this, by setting routines and creating good habits at home. Morning routines: waking up, making a bed, eating breakfast, getting dressed and packing a bag can really instil a sense of responsibility and can be introduced prior to the start of school, to eliminate the amount of change in one go.
Year 1 children will be expected to know the basics of looking after themselves when at primary school. Encourage your child to dress on their own- tackling buttons, zips and taking off/ putting on jackets. Additionally, they should know how to eat independently, using utensils and be able to go to the toilet without help.
By encouraging independence prior to their first day, this will ensure a child is not only capable of basic expectations but also, they are mentally prepared to help themselves. Relying on someone to aid them with simple and everyday tasks can leave them confused and lacking confidence when confronted with the same tasks at their new school.
Encouraging independence, while facilitating an environment where they feel comfortable asking for help, can really prepare them for a positive and productive experience at primary school.
Starting primary school can be a daunting experience. The campus is unfamiliar and most likely, a lot bigger than their pre-school. The teachers are new, they’re entering a world a little more formal than they’re used to and there’s a high probability they won’t know the other students in their class.
Schooling is a social exercise and socialising can be a new challenge for some children while a very important life lesson. Empathy, social intelligence, and collaborative learning are all skills that would be critical to a successful school career.
To help your child navigate making new friends, you can spend the summer introducing them to new children. They could join a club, sports team or simply a playdate with an unfamiliar face. A lot of primary schools will have parent representatives for each class, you could contact them and arrange a playdate with a child in the same year group. The more frequently a child is required to adapt in a social situation and use vital social skills, the less overwhelming it will be for them on the first day of term.
There is often a big jump from kindergarten / pre-school and the expectations of a new primary school. The workload increases slightly, and children are expected to sit nicely at their desk, listen carefully and complete activities set by their teacher. This can be an adjustment for young, new students.
Getting your child used to organised activities, sitting at a desk or table and having to complete worksheets can be very beneficial. It’s good practice and ensures they understand expectations before starting school. It helps differentiate between playtime and learning, which can be a great discipline to understand early on.
Set specific timeslots for your child to sit-down throughout the summer holiday and complete short activities. Keep it fun and consistent, it will help with setting expectations, while also improving their listening skills, fine-motor skills, and overall behaviour.
As soon as your child’s place has been confirmed, start talking. It’s important to keep your child well-informed on what they can expect when they join their new school. Talk about the subjects they will take, the new friends they will meet, their uniform- anything and everything. The more they hear and talk about the school, the better prepared they will be when the time comes for their first day.
While it can be a big change for the whole family, it’s also a very exciting time. Take your child to buy their uniform, or their new pencil case. Let them be a part of the process and enjoy the build-up to the big day. You want to create a positive atmosphere around their new school and facilitate an informative, fun, and exciting environment at home, when planning and preparing for primary school.