So this year I will be sending my eldest child off to kindergarten for the first time. Now I'm not that concerned as we have already been sending her off to school for pre-kindy for over a year now. We know the drill quite well. The pre-kindy program was one full day each week and she settled in beautifully but I did do a lot of prep before we started. So here are some of my top tips from a parent's and an early childhood teacher's perspective for starting school for the first time.
1. Be Positive!
Sure I'm nervous about sending my first child off to kindy but there's no way I'm letting her know that. We have been talking about the excitement of going off to kindy instead. She's starting at a new school this year so it's all going to be different for her. I save the 'OMG my baby's off to kindy' to my friends, family and hubby because it's amazing how much kids pick stuff up from us. If we're nervous or sad they are likely to be too!
Get them trying on their new uniforms and if they don't have a uniform maybe choose some clothes to set aside just for school (this is what we've done). Choose clothes they can do up themselves after they've been to the toilet and you don't mind getting a little messy. Take a photo of them in their uniform/school clothes and make them feel special. If you've bought new shoes let them wear them around the house for a few days to wear them in. It's a good idea to pick shoes they can put on and take off themselves.
3. Plan the goodbyes.
If you are feeling anxious about the first day or you feel your child will not cope too well with the separation come up with a plan. When you say you are leaving, tell your child and leave. I have a one kiss and hug for me and one kiss and hug for her little sister routine and then we leave. Try really hard not to give in to another minute or puzzle or story or they'll just keep trying to delay it which makes the goodbyes even harder and more stressful. They may cry but I bet that five/ten minutes after you've left they have settled and are fine. It's normal and okay.
However if you are having issues with the separation in the morning talk to your teacher.
There's also a great article here with some useful information and advice http://raisingchildren.net.au/articles/afraid_of_starting_preschool_or_school.html/context/1137
4. Buy kid friendly stuff.
Make sure your child can open their lunchboxes and all the containers. Think about the size of their school bag. Those cute little bags are adorable but can they fit your child’s spare underwear/clothes, lunch box/bag, drink bottle, hat, jumper (because it will most often come off), art work, notes and their items for news? In fact make sure that every you buy for them can be open, closed, used by your child without assistance. This is very important to helping your child build their independence and therefore confidence.
5. Involve your kids.
Let them come shopping with you for school supplies or help unpack it if you order on-line. Get them to help with some of the prep work, covering, labelling or even just packing the supplies away to take on their first day. Involve them in some way even if it's checking everything off the list. This all helps build up the familiarity and excitement of starting school.
6. Encourage independence from day one.
Have them carry their own bag and place everything away themselves. If they put it away there's more chance they'll remember where it is when they need it. Independence is really important not just for their learning but also their own self confidence.
7. Make sure your kids can toilet themselves independently.
Can they undo their buckles? pull up their pants after? hitch up their dress or skirt? wipe themselves? Yep that last one is essential and yes I've had many a child tell me they can't as mum always does it for them. Not fun for the teacher trying to explain how! Now accidents do happen so also let them know it's okay and their teacher will be there to help them find their spare clothes for them.
8. Lastly clear their schedules!
Why? Starting school is exhausting for kids. Try not to over schedule their first weeks/term until you see how they are adjusting and coping. What they would usually be able to fit in their day/week will not be the same for a while even if they've been attending daycare. School really is tiring on a whole different level. If you feel your child really isn't coping have a chat with your child's teacher.
Most importantly, enjoy the first day at school! It's a special day. Remember to take a photo before you leave home of them all dressed up for their first day. Pack a few tissues but try not to cry til you're out of view of your child. If you feel yourself about to burst in front of them remember the old trick of pushing your tongue up on the roof of your mouth to prevent the tears.
On that first day I'm planning on a little coffee date with my littlest after I've dropped my big girl off for her first day of kindy. I see a large latte and a big piece of cheese cake in my future. It will be like my little reward for surviving and a great distraction!
Make sure you go out and reward yourself on that big day too.
You deserve it xx