t seems like just a moment ago that you were holding a newborn baby in your arms, getting excited about those first steps and coping with toddler tantrums, yet somehow their first day of school is approaching.  Your ‘baby’ is making their first tentative steps towards independence and it’s scary.  Not just for them, but for you too!!

So, how can you use the remaining time of the summer holidays to get both you and your little one prepared, excited and ready for the changes ahead?

Read up!

We don’t mean bombard your little one with books and information, but invest in a couple of friendly and fun bedtime stories that will encourage some relaxed conversation about what to expect, how the school day will run and answer any questions that they may have.

Dress and undress

For a little person, getting ready for school, getting changed for P.E., even going to the toilet can be a cause for concern.  Make sure they’re able and practised at getting themselves dressed, and if they’re finding it a struggle, have a word with their teacher on the first day.  Explain to your child that they’ll need to keep their clothes in one place when they change and perhaps as well as a name tag, put a little symbol (flower, star, car…) on the label too that they can easily recognise an item as their own.

Get social

If you know of other children who will be starting the same school, why not arrange some play dates through the summer, so that there are some familiar faces on the first day for you and for your child.

Practice makes perfect

Have a dummy run of your first morning.  Get up, have breakfast, get dressed and head to school, so that your little one can imagine how that first morning will be (and you can make sure you’ve left enough time to get ready!).

Routine

Now’s the time to start winding back bedtimes and getting them back into an early night, early morning routine, so that it’s not a shock to the system when they start school.  You can try moving bedtime forwards by 5 minutes each night, so that they don’t even notice!

Shop til you drop!

There’s a huge array of lunchboxes and school bags out there – why not let your child help choose their own.  Let them help to pack it and show them how to get everything ready for school the night before.

Toilet training

How many of us have memories of a child that wet themselves at school?  It’s all too common and one of the reasons is that for little people, school toilets are scary!  It’s all too tempting for them to want to hang on until the inevitable happens.  Talk to your child about times in the day that they can go (breaktimes and lunch) and that it’s ok to ask the teacher.  Make sure that they’re able to pull up their pants and wipe themselves properly. Teach them how to flush the chain and wash their hands too – you don’t want a nasty lurgy coming home with them!

Separation anxiety

This is a tough one.  It’s hard for you and for your child.  Even if your child skips off happily without a backward glance, it’s a big moment and one that is likely to leave you feeling very emotional. When dropping off, do what you need to and get out quickly – long lingering goodbyes help no one and the teachers are used to coping with the emotions of the first few weeks.  Make sure your child knows when you are coming back, and if there are tears for the first few days, talk with the teacher about how best to deal with them.  Remember, every reaction is normal and something that the school will have seen before; you’ll notice that there’s a whole spectrum of emotions going on in that first term.  Some children seem to settle quickly, but have their hiccups later on, whilst others are upset to begin with but settle within a day or two.

Be brave

Whilst it may be hard, crying in front of your child won’t help!! If you have friends with little ones starting the same school, maybe meet in the playground beforehand – this will help you
and the children.  It’s a good idea to get together with some of the other mums afterwards for a coffee – you’ll all be feeling the same and it’s a great opportunity to get to know some of the people that you’ll be meeting in at the school gates for the next few years.

Hometime!

Reunited after a long few hours!  Do remember your little one will be exhausted – let them offer information rather than bombard them with questions, then enjoy the cuddles and brace yourself to do it all again tomorrow!

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