The first day of school marks a significant milestone in a child's life. It can be a mixture of emotions ranging from excitement to nervousness - for both children and their parents! To ensure everything runs smoothly and is memorable for all the right reasons, we’ve put together our 7 essential tips to help you and your child navigate this exciting transition.
Children thrive on routines, and having a consistent daily schedule can provide a sense of security. Before school starts, gradually adjust your child's sleep schedule to align with school hours and put them to bed at the same time each night. Establish morning and evening routines that include activities like picking out clothes, packing a bag, and reading a bedtime story. A structured routine will help your child feel more comfortable and confident and will set them up to go into school, ready to learn.
2. Talk to them
In the weeks leading up to their first day, talk to them about it. Engage them in open conversations about their feelings regarding starting school. Get them excited about all the new experiences they are going to have, toys they will play with and the friends they will make.
You can also address any concerns or worries they might have and provide reassurance. Encourage them to ask questions and express their thoughts, and be sure to listen attentively. Validating their emotions will help them feel supported. Expect your child to feel anxious and provide plenty of reassurance that their worries are normal, but it will all be OK.
Reading Starting School by Janet and Allan Ahlberg or I Am Too Absolutely Small For School by Lauren Child can be a great introduction to the conversation.
3. Practice makes perfect
Preparation is the foundation of a successful first day of school. Start by familiarising your child with the school's location and layout. If possible, take a tour of the school and show them their classroom, the playground, and other important areas. This will help alleviate any fears they might have about the unknown.
You can do the school run together in the summer holidays to get your child looking forward to starting and accustomed to the commute. You can also talk them through what a typical day at school will look like, such as when it's lunch and home time. This way they know what to expect.
4. Label everything
Yes, we mean everything – this will help avoid tears over who owns the Roblox pencil case! The school will usually issue a list of all the equipment you'll need and there are bound to be duplicates, and that's before we even talk about uniforms. You can purchase labels that can be sewn or stuck onto everything, or simply use a permanent marker to write your child’s name on their belongings.
5. Teach independence
From putting on their socks to opening their bookbag, it’s a great idea to give your child the chance to practise doing things without the help of an adult.
You can also involve your child in age-appropriate decision-making processes. This could range from choosing their own clothes for the day to selecting a book to read before bedtime.
6. Arrive Early
On the first day, aim to arrive at school a little earlier than necessary. This gives you and your child some extra time to navigate any last-minute hiccups, find the classroom, and settle in. A calm and unhurried start can set a positive tone for the entire day.
7. Extra help beyond the first day
For many families, extra help will still be needed. But how that help is structured changes significantly when children transition into school.
If there isn't a younger sibling at home, a full time nanny is harder to justify. However, for some families it continues to ensure a reliable, illness & holiday proof solution.
Other popular alternatives include:
The unicorn that every parent chases.. but almost never catches. Wraparound help consists of someone coming in for a few hours in the morning to do the drop off, then having a break before coming back to pick the child(ren) up and care for them until parents finish work. Families often offer to increase the hours to full time in the school holidays to bulk up the hours, although this doesn’t work for everyone.
Does what is says on the tin, afterschool nannies pick up the children from school, and watch them until they hand over to the parents. This option is okay if you’re happy with someone student-like, but often not enough hours to ensure a long-term solution. Afterschool nannies often work just 15-20 hours a week, so it only suits a very specific type of person. As with wraparound, afterschool nannies can work full time in the holidays (although maybe not if they have a morning job or another commitment like their own child).
Nanny-housekeepers and PAs
Nanny housekeepers or Nanny PAs are a great option for parents who are happy to flesh out the hours to make the job more appealing. We would always recommend a minimum of 30 hours a week. Housekeeping duties vary from light housekeeping and errands to the deep clean. PA duties usually include research (for parents and children), booking appointments, managing contractors and anything else families might need support with.
myTamarin's insight: we have learned over the years that the latter is often the best option for families to ensure quality and longevity.
Finally, don’t forget that children feed off your emotions, so your attitude towards the first day of school will greatly influence your child's perception of it. They’re incredibly sensitive to how their parents and caregivers feel and take their emotional cues from you. Your enthusiasm will be contagious and reassuring, so stay calm, and be excited for this new chapter in their lives.