How to help your child settle smoothly into starting their very first school

by Judith

Judith Holloway works with entrepreneurial mums and helps them to be great
in business and in the ‘business’ of parenting.

Here are some of the things I’ve done over the years to ensure a smooth transition into starting school for the very first time – it’ll help both you and your child so you can look forward to the start of new school with pleasure, excitement and anticipation.

1. Preparation is everything. This is just as important for you as well as your child – and it’s well worth the extra effort needed so you’re organised way ahead of time.

2. Shopping for school clothes and other stuff. Shop as early as possible so you’ll avoid the crowds and find plenty of garments in the sizes you need. (P.S. I used to start mine just before the schools broke up!) If they don’t have the sizes you need, you’ll have plenty of time to order them online or through the store. Does the school require your child to have a book bag, school bag, towel, art shirt/smock? Find out and get prepared.

3. Labelling is good. Label all clothing items and all other items going into school. It’s a must. Use sewn in or iron on name tapes and make sure they are done really well – to last. If your child misplaces or loses an item or two in school they’ll be easily found. The teachers will thank you for clearly labelling your child’s clothing. Meanwhile, check and make sure your child can recognise his/her name on the label.

4. Washing and putting away. Wash your child’s uniform so it’s softer and smells like home! It means just a teeny tiny bit more work and it’s totally worth it. Ask your child to help you put the uniform away in their drawers and wardrobe. It’s exciting doing this and the bonus is your child will know where all their school clothes are.

5. School coat. Check to make sure your child’s school coat has a coat peg loop (and is it big enough to fit over the school coat pegs?) so it can be hung up by the loop rather than the collar. Make a loop for the coat if it doesn’t have one so you and your child know it’ll stay on the peg all day and s/he won’t have to hunt around on the floor for it. Sometimes coats are accidentally knocked off pegs and onto the floor. :(

6. Shoes glorious shoes (and wellies). Buy shoes a week or so before the new term starts so you can actually buy the shoes you want for your child. Look for shoes that have Velcro fastenings and name them. Name trainers/pumps too. Help your child practice putting on and taking off the shoes so they can do it by themselves. They will feel so much more grown up rather than having to rely on you or the teacher to tie their shoelaces.
Name any wellies going into school and make sure your child can put them on the correct feet and pull them off by themselves. Show them any easy way to get them off themselves. To help my children, I used to write their name on the inside, at the top above the instep of the foot so when the wellies were put on they just had to remember the two names had to be close together, as though they were having a hug. I did the same with their school shoes too. It worked!

7. Cleaning duty. Get your child involved in polishing their school shoes as early as possible. It’s good practice for them to watch you to begin with. You can talk through what you are doing whilst you’re doing it so they know how to do it later on. Ask them to buff their shoes up so they have a brilliant shine. It’s all good training for later. Now they know the shoe fairy really doesn’t exist!

8. Dressing and undressing. Encourage your child to dress and undress so they have lots of practice putting on jumpers, tights, using buttons, zips and Velcro. Go through the order of putting on and taking them off. There’s no right or wrong way it’s just using logic and common sense. Teach them! If some clothing is inside out teach your child how to turn it the right way out. Teach your child to fold the clothes that are taken off and put them in a neat pile (or in a PE bag). This is so they don’t get lost or muddled up in the classroom (and home). These skills are really useful, particularly at school when they get ready for PE and they can also put on and take off coats/jumpers for outside play. They will feel really grown up doing it all by themselves. Your teacher will thank you as well!

9. Personal hygiene. By this I mean toileting, washing hands and nose blowing. Help and encourage them to go to the toilet at home so they can go independently. Make sure they know how to pull down their trousers/tights, sit on the toilet seat, pull off and fold the paper, wipe from front to back, check for spills on the seat and wiping it, flushing the toilet and good hand washing.
Have some spare underwear and clothes in your child’s PE bag, just in case. Reassure your child that accidents might happen and they have spare clean clothes to wear if it does happen.
Hand washing – ensure they can wash their hands by themselves and the order in which they do it: turn tap on, put soap on hands, rub well across palms, in-between fingers and back of hands, rinse thoroughly, turn tap off and dry hands.
Blowing nose – make sure they can do this effectively by themselves and put the tissue in the bin.

10. Tidying up. Encourage your child to tidy up and clear away toys when they’ve finished with them. Also encourage them to help you around the house with age appropriate jobs.

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11. Table manners. Make sure your child can sit at a table and use a knife and fork properly. Encourage your child to sit at a table correctly when doing drawing, painting or other activities at home. Help and encourage your child with basic manners such as ‘please’ and ‘thank you’. Manners still go a long way today!

12. Practice makes perfect. Practice having a packed lunch at home with your child’s newly bought lunch box. Check your child can open the sandwich box, drinks bottle, peel a satsuma/clementine, can bite into and eat a small apple and tackle other items potentially in the lunch box. More about packed lunches later…

Make a dry run to school to help your child with the route and the routine. Point out interesting sights or places to your child as you ‘test drive’ the school run. Read stories about a child starting school and/or talk about when you started school (as long as it’s a happy story).

13. Give simple choices. Give your child control over what they can control. Simple choices can calm their nerves and keep them positive about the next steps. For example, you choose a lunch box and your child chooses the colour.

14. Familiar faces. Schedule some play dates with your child’s friends over the holiday period so when they see them at school it’s a familiar face.

15. Earlier to bed. One or two weeks before school begins, start rolling back bedtime to a school schedule. Gradually get your child up 15 minutes earlier in the morning and going to bed 15 minutes earlier in the evening until they are back on track.

16. Good bye time. A few days before school starts, talk about what’s going to happen when you take your child into school and how you’re going to say goodbye.

This seems a lot to do – it is and it’s well worth it. Just think of the confidence your child will have going into school and being able to do ‘grown up’ things. It’s absolutely priceless!

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Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

CHARRON July 28, 2014 at 1:05 pm

Great information for those starting out….wish this advice had been about when my boys started! Liking the detail about hand washing…so few adults let alone children wash properly!


Judith July 28, 2014 at 2:43 pm

Thanks for your comments Charron! I totally agree with the hand washing.
For years, every July, before schools broke up, I was running a military style logistical operation. It had to be back then with four children in four different schools! I had to get them (and school stuff) prepared early on so it was easier later in the year. It’s paid dividends – even now! :)


Amanda September 2, 2014 at 7:33 pm

Well today was Day 1 at “big school” for my eldest son (age 4), and do you know he did alright. All through the summer holidays we have been preparing him and although he had a bit of a bottom lip wobble as we left him, he was fine. Thankfully he is happy to go back tomorrow.


Judith September 2, 2014 at 9:36 pm

Wow, well done to both of you! It’s a huge milestone combined with a number of firsts for him (and you) today. It sounds as though your preparation this summer worked really well. Wonderful news that he’s happy to go back tomorrow. Early nights this week sound like a must as well to keep him on track and enjoying all that school has to offer.
Have you read this other post about managing the first days of school? There are more tips to help you so you can avoid the over tiredness that can creep up so very quickly >> How to manage the first days (and weeks) of school effectively.
See what you think and let me know.


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