Starting School with Confidence: Expert Advice for a Smooth Transition

starting school tips
Sian Thomas
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. We’ve experienced the highs and lows of starting school firsthand – including my daughter starting school at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

10 tips for parents to help their children transition to school with ease.

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.

Prepare your child:

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.

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 starts.

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.
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.

 

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.
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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

 

 

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.

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.
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.

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photo of two girls walking to school

 

 

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