Looking forward to starting “Big School”!
Starting a new school for the first time or moving on to “big school” for grade 1 can seem overwhelming and stressful, but it should also be exciting and full of adventure! As an adult who has spent many years in school, we have a good idea of what our children can expect on their first day and even their first week, but have we taken the time to help them to prepare for this? There are many fun ways to help your little Einstein feel excited and ready for their big First Day, even if they are still a little nervous. Here are some of our tips leading up to the big day as well as a few thoughts for how to manage the very first day when emotions are running high for both children and parents!
Before the Big First Day:
- Make a countdown calendar with your child. Time is an abstract concept for young children. You can make it more concrete and real for them with a visual calendar that requires an action step each day. The action can be adding a sticker to each day’s square to mark it off or moving a peg from one square to the next.
- Talk to your child about who will be there. Use their teacher’s name so that they will get used to hearing it and learn it (especially if it’s a long or unusual name). Talk about which friends will be in their class and remind them that some of the children will be different to who was in class with them last year. Planting the seed of how wonderful it will be to make new friends can also help them to seek out other children and to reciprocate friendly chatter with new children in their class.
- Drive past the school in the holidays if it’s a new place they will be going. Point out the fun things about the new school, e.g. the junglegym, the sandpit the big field to play on. Talk about the gate they will go in and the classroom they will be in if you know these details.
- Chat about the process of the first day and other aspects of their first week that may be new or different for them. Some details may include who will be dropping them off on the first day (Mom and Dad, just Dad), will you be going in to the classroom with them or saying goodbye at the gate, will the second day be different (only Mom will drop off or you won’t be going into the classroom the second day but rather saying goodbye at the door), where can your child play before the bell rings and what should they do once they hear the bell. If you don’t know these details you can talk about some options of how it may be, but try to stick to a plan of action especially for the first day.
- Remember to keep your emotions in check. Talk positively about the school, their teacher and friends. Be aware of flapping ears and underlying emotions, your sensitive little one will pick up on this.
- Allow your child to walk in their new shoes and wash their uniform ahead of time to soften it and so that it can smell like “home”. Practice getting dressed and undressed into and out of uniform and sports clothes. Help them to learn to keep their clothes and shoes together and put them straight into their bag, because when half the class’s uniforms are lying on the floor they will not know which belongs to them (they are not used to everyone’s clothing looking the same!). Show them where on their uniform and shoes you have written or sewn their name.
- Start the school routine a few days before school starts. Get bed time back on track, wake up early and eat breakfast early. Make sure they know what they will need to do each morning before school (get dressed, eat breakfast, make bed, brush teeth, pack lunchbox etc.). You can make a picture chart for this so that they can refer to it each morning. They can start to run through doing most of these things the few days before to practice.
- Read, read, read! In the holidays read at least two books a day (based on research young children should read/be read to at least two books a day). Take out books from the library about school, starting school, making friends etc. You can act out some stories with them and even draw your own story together.
On your child’s First Day:
- Breakfast is a very important part of the morning routine. Try not to rush it and make sure it has some slow release energy so that your child’s blood sugar does not dip shortly after they get to school. This makes concentrating difficult as well as their ability to cope with new and demanding situations. If your child is not a big breakfast fan, try offering something to get the digestive juices going like a bit of honey/sugar in their tea and then move on to breakfast. Make the small amount they eat count by giving them high protein or slow release carbs (e.g. eggs or cooked oats).
- When packing their lunchbox, include a favourite healthy snack and a special note or smiley face to ensure they feel extra loved once snack time rolls around. Keep sweets and special treats for home or outing days.
- Be early, don’t rush in the door as the bell rings. Your child needs to have a calm morning and time to say a proper goodbye to you without feeling rushed and ill prepared for their first day.
- No long goodbyes! Stick to the routine you have spoken about leading up to the first day. For example: you will go with them into the classroom, help them find their desk and unpack their bag, read one story with them, a hug and a kiss, walk them over to a friend they can chat with and then you will leave. Trust that he will have a fabulous first day and that if his teacher is at all concerned they will give you a call. Your child will take his lead from you, so give yourself a pep talk the night before if necessary, but put on a brave face for him and he will believe he can do anything!
- Try to stick to just one extra mural in the first term or two. Give your child a chance to settle in to his new class and the new demands on his emotional and cognitive systems. You may find that he is more tired than usual for a while and moving his bedtime a little earlier may help him to cope as he adjusts to all the changes he is experiencing. Having just one extra mural will help him to not feel overwhelmed during this time.
This is a big milestone for you as well as your child. Remember…there are many wonderful adventures to be had, many amazing facts to be learnt, many fun-filled hours playing with friends, many character building lessons to be experienced and many lifelong memories to be treasured. Here’s wishing you and your family an amazing 2017!