Starting School with Confidence: 10 Tips from a Teacher and Mum to 3

Starting school for the first time can be an exciting and overwhelming experience for children and their parents alike. The transition from home to school can bring new challenges, but with the right support and guidance, children can thrive in their new environment.
As a teacher and mother to three children, I have plenty of experience with the ‘starting school’ process – in fact, I’ve recently realise that I’ve now been doing the school run for 10 years!I have three children aged between 5 and 14. All have had unique experiences of starting school. All three have been ‘ready’ for school in different ways. I will share stories of our own experience throughout this set of emails.

That’s why, I want you to think about how you can apply the knowledge I’m sharing with you to your own child. I don’t believe that there is a ‘one-size fits all’ method that works for starting school. For example, some children are academically ready, whereas others are more physically capable. It’s important not to compare your child to their peers – although this is sometimes easier said than done.

I want to be clear right from the start of this series that your child doesn’t have to be perfect in these areas to begin school. After all, the first few years of school should be about learning what it is to be a human – and no human is perfect.

Starting School skills include:

  • practical skills
  • social & emotional readiness,
  • communication skills
  • basic academic skills  – what is handy to know and how to incorporate playfully
  • and your preparation as the parent or carer in your child’s life – including what you can do so that your child has the best start possible

Contrary to popular belief, drilling your child on the abcs and 123s isn’t really what getting ready for school is about. Or at least, the academic side of things is just a tiny part of the picture!

In fact, being ready for school can be quite tricky to quantify and depending on who you ask and what you read online, you might end up with contradictory answers

I’ve seen many long, long lists online along with bootcamp style online courses,  but to be perfectly honest with you, those lists are enough to have parents (including me) have nightmares.

Those lists are also likely to put your child off school and learning for life, as they involve a mountain of worksheets and constant drilling of information.

The reality is children, just like us adults, all have different strengths and different areas that can be improved upon. They are little individuals, so uniform lists are unhelpful.

For example, child A might be excellent at getting dressed independently and has been out of nappies for a while, but they have shown no interest in the academic side of things.

Child B, might count and recognise numbers really well but doesn’t know how to put their own clothes on yet.

Does this mean that either child shouldn’t go to school? Of course not! Because everyone (including us) learn at different paces.

We also forget that children are brilliant at learning from one another, as well as from adults. Quite often seeing another child perform a task that they are struggling with can be a great motivator. There’s no reason why child A can’t learn from child B and vice versa!

Here’s what I believe:

When we treat the early years as merely a ‘preparation stage’ for school, the real importance of the early years is neglected. The early years should first and foremost be about social and emotional skills, building independence and exploring the world through play. It should not be about worksheets and drilling a child until they can recite the alphabet and count to 100.

Whilst this blog post specifically focuses on the practical elements of starting school, you can also access my ‘Starting School’ mini course via my low-cost membership. Find out more here. 

10 tips for starting school:

This specific post highlights 10 tips to help parents navigate the lead up to and first few months of school. Whilst some of these tips will help children who have additional needs, it does not specifically address them.
If your child has additional needs, I highly recommend coordinating with your child’s school to create an IEP (individualised education plan) and organise additional visits that will help your child transition into school.

Starting school tip 1: Prepare your child

starting school prep - practising the journey to school
Before the first day of school, take the time to talk to your child about what to expect. Visit the school together, meet the teacher, and explore the classrooms and playground. This will help your child feel more comfortable and confident when it’s time to start school.
Schools usually host transition events in the lead up to the new school year, so make sure that you are signed up to the school’s mailing list or Facebook group. Add dates to your digital calendar (or wall calendar) as soon as you receive them so that you don’t miss out on important information.

Starting school tip 2: Create a simple rhythm

Establishing a routine is essential for a successful transition to school. Start getting your child into a regular bedtime and waking up routine a few weeks before school starts. This will help them feel rested and ready to learn.
Because the new school year begins right after the long summer holiday, make sure your child is gradually introduced to a gentle daily rhythm in the weeks leading up to school. I recommend starting this at least 2 weeks before school begins.

Starting school tip 3: Encourage independence

Starting school is a big step towards independence, so encourage your child to take ownership of their own belongings, such as their backpack and lunchbox. This will help build their confidence and self-esteem.
a toddler learns where to put his boots and coat in order to build independence
In the lead up to school, allow your child plenty of opportunities to do the following:
  • open their lunch box, snack box and drink bottle – some can be surprisingly tricky to open, even for adults!
  • put on their school uniform or school clothes – in many schools, children are required to change into a separate uniform for PE.
  • put on shoes – some schools have an ‘indoor shoes’ policy and so your child might be changing multiple times in one day
  • Identify their belongings – create activities that will help your child to learn their name. You can also add a special sticker or symbol to help them.


Starting school tip 4: Get involved

Get involved in your child’s education by attending school events and communicating regularly with the teacher. This will show your child that you value their education and are committed to their success. There is, of course, a fine line with this – a simple introductory email at the beginning of the year works well, as does saying a friendly ‘hello’ at drop-off and pick-up time.
When it comes to school events, make sure that at least one parent (or family member) can attend special events such as parents’ evening, school assemblies or special events.
If you have the time, the PTA (Parent Teacher Association) is an excellent way to meet new people and make friends.

Starting school tip 5: Be a good listener

Children often have a lot of thoughts and feelings about starting school, so make sure to listen and support your child. Encourage them to talk about their day and ask open-ended questions to help them process their experiences.
It’s best to save questions until you’ve got home from school – don’t bombard them as soon as they leave the school gates. We’ve found that the best time is during our afternoon snack or evening family meal.

Starting school tip 6: Practice kindness and respect

Teach your child about the importance of kindness and respect towards their classmates and teachers. Remind them that everyone is different and that it’s okay to make mistakes.

Starting school tip 7: Foster a love of learning

Encourage your child’s love of learning by reading together, visiting museums and libraries, and trying new activities. This will help them see the value of education and inspire them to do their best in school.

Starting school tip 8: Set achievable goals

Help your child set achievable goals, both in and out of school. This will give them a sense of purpose and help them stay motivated.

You should be invited to attend a parents’ evening during the first term of school so share these goals with the class teacher and ask for suggestions too.

School’s often use the ‘2 stars and a wish’ approach to help give feedback on what your child is doing well (2 stars) and what would be a good goal for the future (a wish). This is a great approach to adopt at home too.



Starting school tip 9: Provide a positive and supportive home environment

Create a positive and supportive home environment that encourages your child to be curious, ask questions, and explore. This will help them feel confident and ready to learn.
Even though your child is now at ‘big school’, play in the home environment is still crucial. Continue to provide plenty of opportunities for your child to learn and explore through play via invitations to play.

Starting school tip 10: Celebrate their successes

Celebrate your child’s successes, big and small. This will help them feel valued and boost their confidence. This could be as simple as saying that your proud of their achievement or celebrating with a special family meal or day trip.

It’s so, so important to note that every child is different and you shouldn’t compare y0ur own child’s learning journey to that of their classmates.

Examples of things to celebrate with your child could include:
  • learning to recognise and spell their name
  • learning a new set of phonics sounds
  • reading their first sentence
  • recognising and counting numbers up to 10, 20 and so on…
  • being awarded as ‘star of the week’

In Summary

Starting school for the first time can be an exciting and challenging experience, but with the right support and guidance, children can thrive in their new environment. By preparing your child, encouraging independence, and fostering a love of learning, parents can help their children make a smooth transition to school and set the foundation for a successful academic future.

Helpful Preschool / Starting School Posts to check out next:

9 Pre-Writing Shapes for Preschoolers

9 Pre-Writing Activities to try with your Preschooler

Starting School with Confidence

How to Establish a Simple Before School Rhythm

How to Create a Simple After School Rhythm

Is your child starting school soon?

Head on over to my membership, ‘How I drink my Coffee Hot’, to access the ‘Starting School’ mini course.

Topics covered include:

  • Building Independence
  • Social-Emotional Readiness
  • Foundational Academic Skills
  • Your Readiness as a parent


Sian Thomas
an image of This Playful Home founder, Sian Thomas. The photo includes a photo of her daughter when she was around 18 months old

I’m Siân (rhymes with yarn), a play advocate, proud parent to three, and former teacher. My mission is to infuse more joy and less overwhelm into the lives of parents. Discover play-based activities with me that not only make learning FUN but also forge deep connections with your young learners, creating memories to cherish forever.