From turning up for the school bell to playtimes, school is all about routine. Here’s how to prepare your child for the new regime.
In the weeks leading up to that first day of school, setting a daily routine that includes the all-important skills your child will need is great preparation. "Parents often believe that their child must be able to read, write, count and know their letters and numbers when they start school, but actually the first six weeks are spent settling children in and getting them into a routine," says reception teacher Karen Rapley.
To get the day off to a good start, practise the morning routine together - getting dressed, having breakfast and going for a walk (ideally to the new school). Give your child plenty of opportunity to practise dressing and undressing. "It's tempting to do the hard bits yourself - sometimes you haven't got the time to wait for him to do it - but whenever possible allow your child to do these little tasks independently," says Dr Likierman, co-author of Prepare Your Child For School: how to make sure your child gets off to a flying start. If you can, choose items of uniform that are simple: elasticated skirts, T-shirts rather than buttoned shirts, or Velcro-fastening shoes. "I used to send my daughter to school every morning in cute little woollen tights," says Maria, from Bath, and mum to Ava, 5. "At half term, the teacher took me to one side and revealed that Ava's tights were so fiddly to pull on after the class PE session, that Ava was always the last to get dressed and it was upsetting her."
If you know other children in your area who are starting at the same school, arrange to meet so they can play games for an hour or so each day that require sharing, then sit down for a mid-morning snack. Remind your child to go to the toilet: practise the whole procedure, including flushing and washing hands with soap before drying them thoroughly. Play a game where your child follows instructions, look at books together and enjoy art activities like drawing and colouring. Throughout the day, encourage your child to tell you stories about things she enjoys so she is exercising her conversational skills.
If your child is a grazer, get him into the habit of eating at regular set times, otherwise, he'll get hungry and restless long before lunchtime.
Sophie van Gerwen, reception teacher
In between play, schedule in time to eat lunch – including unpacking a lunch box.
Find out about arrangements for eating at your child's school and discuss them in advance. Can your little one open his own lunch box? Is he used to eating with other children or trying new foods?
School work can come as a bit of a shock to children but you can prepare him before he starts. Encouraging him in fun activities but don't force your little one to continue once he's lost interest. Follow Dr Likierman's top tips to ease your child into schoolwork gently.
Engage him with short, structured activities, such as doing a jigsaw puzzle or colouring. Encourage him to finish what he has started.
Look at books together and point out labels or street names, to help develop essential pre-literacy skills.
Drawing, painting and colouring help pencil control.
Use everyday tasks, such as sorting cutlery or climbing steps, to learn about shape and size, matching and measuring as well as numbers and counting.As this daily routine becomes familiar, encourage your child to do more things - such as getting dressed and unpacking her lunch - without your help (but don't worry: there will always be someone on hand at school to offer a helping hand too). Setting a bathtime, storytime, bedtime and lights-out routine in action now will also help to ensure that your little hero is in peak form by the time it comes to that big day.
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