Preparing your child for school or nursery

What can you do to get your child ready to start nursery or school?

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There’s plenty you can do to help you child feel prepared for nursery or school and to ease the transition once they start.

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We look at what to do before your child’s first day, and how to handle any problems that arise once they start.

What to do before your child starts nursery or school

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  • Attend any open day where you and your child can meet the staff and have a look around. Draw your child’s attention to anything he’s particularly interested in – craft activities, playground equipment or indoor toys.
  • Ensure your child knows the basics: getting dressed and undressed, using the toilet on his own, recognising his full name. Let him practise without your help at home so he gets used to being more independent.
  • Talk about other children he might know there.
  • Talk through any concerns with the staff, who’ll be very experienced and ready and willing to help.

What to do on your child’s first day of nursery or school

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  • Ensure you feel – or at least appear – calm and relaxed.
  • Be well prepared so that you can give your reassurance and positive attention to lift his confidence for the big day.

A note about the school day

Classes are bright, active places where physical activity is encouraged, even for number work. Learning through fun is the order of the day.

The school day is now designed to give children experiences of the world by:

  • playing games
  • using construction toys
  • observing and interacting
  • touching and feeling.

Questions and self-expression are encouraged and teachers aim to build up confidence, self-esteem and independence. It should add up to an enjoyable experience.

Settling your child into nursery or school

  • If your child’s unfamiliar with the staff, physically hand him over, introducing him at the same time.
  • Once he seems settled and happy, don’t hover in anticipation of problems or confuse him with last-minute instructions.
  • Kiss him goodbye, say you’ll see him a bit later and leave.

Coming home from nursery or school

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  • Even if your child has found the whole experience easy, he’ll probably be very tired and need some extra attention and cuddles.
  • Be ready for tears, even tantrums. It doesn’t mean there’s a problem – he may just need extra reassurance for a while.
  • If your child does seem really tired, bring bedtime forward by half an hour until he adjusts.
  • Be supportive and stay positive – he’ll pick up on your mood and carry it over to the next day at nursery or school.

Initial problems at nursery or school – and how to deal with them

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1. Not wanting to go

Some children seem to settle very easily and then, a fortnight later, decide they don’t like it.

Establish that there’s no underlying reason, then firmly but gently explain he has to go. If tiredness is a real issue, tell his teacher, who may suggest your child goes home earlier for a few weeks until he settles down again.

2. Not having anyone to play with
This is a common feeling that children often express but the situation is usually less serious than it sounds.

The school or nursery will let you know if there’s a real problem.

3. Scared to ask to go to the toilet
Many children are shy at this age and don’t want to draw attention to themselves.

Have a word with his teacher who will encourage him to put his hand up. If he’s anxious about what will happen if he has an accident, reassure him that it happens to plenty of children and the teachers will deal with it kindly.

Five ways to make starting school or nursery easier for your child

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1. Set up routines for mealtimes and bedtimes, so your child starts each day fresh and ready to learn.
2. Help your child learn to concentrate by giving him short, structured activities, such as puzzles, cooking or painting, and encourage him to finish them once begun.
3. Find out who’s going to be in your child’s new class and arrange play dates to help develop your child’s social skills.
4. Read to your child every day to help develop language skills, a love of books and an awareness of print.
5. Encourage your child to do lots of drawing and colouring, especially of shapes as that will help to develop maths concepts and early writing skills.

Five ways to make your child starting school or nursery easier for you

1. Give yourself plenty of time in the morning so you can stay calm and relaxed.
2. As long as you’re contactable, make plans and keep busy while your child’s away. Do something relaxing and un-mumsy.
3. Remind yourself that this new stage of parenting will be just as rewarding as the baby stage – only more fun.
4. Focus on the positive. Shopping will be much easier – no buggy or little voice saying ‘need a wee’ or ‘want a drink’.
5. Don’t forget the school or nursery will be as keen as you are for your child to settle in happily, and they have years of experience – it’s only a first for you!

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