That all important first day at school is done and dusted. You both made it! Now you can let out a big sigh of relief and get back to normal. Except actually you can’t, because this is now your life for the next 14 or so years – oops!
Obviously, it does get a whole lot easier with time, and most children settle into the school routine of getting up early, wearing specific clothes and making sure they have their reading book and PE kit very rapidly. But often, we are so busy concentrating on making sure our mornings run like clockwork, we forget the importance of a slick afternoon regime in those first few terms – or even years. A full-on school day can take it out of a 4 or 5-year-old, but we have some top tips to make home time as fun as can be (as well as sneakily winding them down for bed!)
1. Take a healthy snack for pick up – most children leave school ravenous, which can quickly manifest itself in the grumps! A banana, mini box of dried fruit or low-sugar cereal bar should fill the hole without filling them up too much before tea.
“My son was always starving after school and would want to stop off at the sweet shop which I wasn’t going to let happen every day! Taking a banana and a carton of juice for the walk home soon made him forget his rumbling tummy!” Kerry, mum of one
2. The school day can wipe reception and year one children out, but to avoid unsettled bedtimes, try not to let them fall asleep in the car on the way home. Walk home if you can, which will give you time to chat about their day and give them a restorative blast of fresh air (but still leave them worn out enough for a good night’s sleep!)
“If you are walking home from school and think they might have a bit of trouble with being tired (but don’t want to embarrass them with a buggy) bring a scooter that you can pull along if necessary. I found that it was a good idea to have dinner a bit earlier too – after after a day at nursery/reception there were quite a few times that my son fell asleep face down in his mash potato!” Lynley, mum of one.
3. Some children might emerge from the classroom with a ton of pent-up energy to burn off – ignore it at your peril! A quick race around the park, or biking or scooting home should keep that post-school need for speed in check and calm them down by the time your key is in the front door.
“Don’t take it personally if they are vile for a bit when you first get home – it might seem to them that they have to be on good behaviour all day, so they kind of let it all loose when they’re with you!” Lizzie, mum of two
4. Don’t get too heavy with the demands for a blow by blow account of their day: it’s tempting to quiz them the minute they get out of school about ‘what did you do, who did you play with, what did you have for lunch’, but although some kids love to relay their day, lots don’t! (and for many the answer will always be ‘nothing’ anyway!)
“Definitely do not bombard them with questions as soon as they step out of the classroom. You will get far better responses if you leave it until a little later when they’ve had a snack and some chill out time.” Liat, mum of one.
5. Unpack school bags as soon as you get in. It’s amazing how ‘No, there are no letters home today, Mummy’ actually translates to: ‘There’s a slip explaining I need a full 17th century sailors’ outfit for tomorrow’s assembly’. Make emptying the school bag part of the getting changed straight out of school uniform routine as soon as you get in to avoid any disasters the following morning.
“Always check their bags thoroughly not just for letters home, but also to make sure they have not ‘borrowed’ ‘swapped’ or just plain nicked some other kid’s toy! I find it’s always best to ensure you know who owns what to prepare for the inevitable onslaught from other mothers!” Freya, mum of three
6. Do as much as you can for tomorrow today! Hang out tomorrow’s uniform, pack tomorrow’s snack, reading book and consent forms as part of your after school routine. Your mornings will thank you for it!
“There’s nothing worse than a rush in the morning – far better to sort everything when they are still vaguely in ‘school mode’ as soon as you get home!” Rosie, mum of one.
7. Try not to overdo the post-school social life in the those early weeks. It’s tempting when your little one starts reception to have a revolving door of post-school play-dates, but as much as you want your child to make friends and be popular, it can become overwhelming in those early terms. Try to limit it to a couple a week.
“The whole going-home-to-tea thing can get totally out of hand when children first start school – we were having invites almost every day. It is just too much for really young children and wears them out – one a week and maybe a weekend meet up with a few kids can be more manageable.” Helen, mum of three
8. Ditto after school clubs. Just because your school offers judo, country dancing and Mandarin doesn’t mean you have to sign your child up for them all at once! They’ve many terms ahead of them to enjoy all the after school activities – spend the initial months letting them adjust to their new daily routine!
“Always have something fun to look forward to each evening in those early days, such as watching a favourite TV show with you, or a story they love hearing. And never, ever let them know you have done something nice like visiting granny or going swimming with a younger sibling while they were toiling away in the classroom!” Faith, mum of two.
And the top, top tip? Relax! Morning and afternoon school runs will soon become second nature for both you and the children!